Ray Brown, until his death, continued to perform and record. His popular "My Best Friends" series under the Telarc label placed him against the young Jazz lions of today. A player with perfect pitch, speed and execution on the double bass, Brown has played with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, his one-time wife, Milt Jackson, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, among a long list of other Jazz legends.
Jazz Cello is a recording released as part of Verve’s Limited Edition cardboard sleeve which resembles the look and feel of the LP. It has long been long out of print and deserves its introduction to the CD format. The Jazz Cello instrument is the creation of Ray Brown. It was modified so that it was easier to tune and its finger board easier to play. Brown likened it to a deeper register of a guitar and higher range of the bass. What you have is an instrument that allows Brown more freedom in playing and soloing with fewer restrictions than those coming from the double bass. Jazz Cello is only one of two of his recorded sessions that featured this instrument.
Jazz Cello was recorded over two sessions in 1961. This album has ten tracks chosen for its familiarity and its ability to swing. Russell Garcia arranges each number so that the spotlight focuses on Brown and his Jazz Cello. The opening number, "Tangerine," Brown can be heard in the opening musical statement plucking his lines with buoyancy while the supporting horns punctuate and weave throughout his playing.
Brown is the only soloist on most tracks but he does share solo space with the other players. Trumpeter, Don Fagerquist, pianist, Jimmy Rowles, and saxophonist, Bob Cooper put together short, but tasteful solos when called upon. On the slower numbers such as, "That Old Feeling" and "But Beautiful," Brown picks and plays an uninterrupted solo. He delivers a warm tone deserving of these classic ballads. "Memories of You" has that bitter sweet and haunting melody that Brown is able to capture in the Jazz Cello.
The mid and up-tempo swing numbers show Brown at his best. On numbers such as, "Rosalie," "Poor Butterfly," and last number, "Rock a Bye Your Baby," Brown seems at home at this pace and is able to easily pick out a tandem of notes without missing a beat.
It is always delightful in jazz to hear able soloist and finely crafted tunes. The album and tracks, though, seem to be somewhat guarded and seldom swings hard. It would have been nice to hear a couple tracks where Brown is able to lay down some serious licks with the Jazz Cello. Anyhow, Brown made his point clear that the Jazz Cello is a worthy voice and solo instrument in Jazz.