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Carline Ray

Pioneering Jazz Musician Carline Ray releases Debut CD "“Vocal Sides”produced by her daughter, award-winning vocalist Catherine Russell.

"April 21, 2013 marked jazz artist Carline Ray’s 88th birthday. What better way to celebrate than with the release of “Carline Ray - Vocal Sides”, a project lovingly put together over several years by Carline and her daughter, vocalist Catherine Russell. In many ways, the CD is the icing on the cake of a long, illustrious career in music. Carline is one of the great, pioneering American jazz musicians who in her words, “just happens to be female”. Carline’s performance is impeccable in every way -- her respect for music history and clear mastery of all the musical traditions she presents, her varied repertoire, her humor, her depth, her perfect diction, her complete artistry.

Carline Ray was born in Harlem in 1925 into a musical family. She grew up hearing all styles of music, entered the Juilliard School of Music at age sixteen, and was one of three African American graduates in the class of 1946. (A second was the late jazz pianist Ellis Larkins). But Carline’s always been in good company. Classically trained as a singer and pianist, and self-taught on guitar and Fender bass, she’s worked with everyone from the International Sweethearts of Rhythm to Mercer Ellington to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She toured as bass player with legendary singer Ruth Brown, jazz trombonist Melba Liston, and with vocalist Carrie Smith’s gospel show when they toured Europe. Carline’s sung with Schola Cantorum and just about every other noteworthy choral group in New York City, was featured vocalist with the Erskine Hawkins big band, and performed and recorded as solo voice on Mary Lou Williams “Mary Lou’s Mass”. In 2005, Carline was the recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival Award, and in 2008, she received an IWJ (International Women In Jazz) Award.

Vocal selections from performances throughout her career are reprised on this CD, making for a rich tapestry of styles and genres: Carline scats on “Donna Lee”, swings on the jazz standard “Back Home again in Indiana”; whispers on her own hushed version of Duke Ellington’s beautiful “Come Sunday”; and preaches in “Lazarus”, written by Mary Lou Williams especially for Carline.

Carline’s versions of the songs on this CD also take us through a deep life journey: the miracle of birth in “A Child is Born”; the essence of prayer in “Our Father”, and the possibility of transcendence in “Somewhere”. She brings the proper attitude to aging in her lilting “When I Grow to Old to Dream”. And what better way to end than with a reminder about music’s centrality in life, in her easygoing version of Vincent Youman’s “Without a Song”.

The traditional “Hold On” is offered here in a pristine vocal version by Carline and Catherine together. In another duet, mother and daughter convey the certain hope of better times to come in the gospel song “Land Beyond the River”. And speaking of the mother daughter connection, Carline appears on Catherine Russell’s 2012 CD, “Strictly Romancin’”, performing a vocal duet with her daughter that Living Blues magazine called “one of the simplest and most sincere gospel performances to be captured on disc in recent memory”. The album garnered numerous awards, including Prix du Jazz Vocal (Vocal Album of The Year) from the French Jazz Academy, Grand Prix du Hot Club de France, and a Bistro Award for Outstanding Recording.

The bonus track, “Lucille”, was written by Carline’s late husband, Luis Russell, himself a pioneering bandleader, pianist, and Louis Armstrong sidekick. He wrote “Lucille” in 1961 for Satchmo to record, and Carline sang a “demo” version, included here. It’s a lovely way to wrap up this family production. Carline is truly a national treasure and a gift to us all."

—Sally Placksin, Author, American Women In Jazz

Carline Ray "Vocal Sides" (Carlcat Records)

featuring
Carline Ray – vocals
Catherine Russell – vocals
Yuka Aikawa – piano
Mark Shane – piano
Atsundo Aikawa – bass
Greg Skaff – guitar
Mark McLean – drums
Akua Dixon – cello
Frank Anderson – organ