Friday, September 20, 2013

Carline Ray, Vocal Sides

There are some vocalists that have that special something, so that the moment you hear her/him you feel you are in the presence. That surely hit me from the moment I put on the CD by the octogenarian wonder, Ms. Carline Ray--and that CD is called Vocal Sides (Carlcat). Whooo, she goes way back. She was married to bandleader Luis Russell (and look him up if you don't know that band--it was smoking) she graduated from Julliard AND the Manhattan School of Music, she was guitarist and vocalist for the legendary International Sweethearts of Rhythm, then went on to be a featured vocalist with Erskine Hawkins Big Band, and then, get this, the bass player in Sy Oliver's band!

And she as of this recording is still going strong, eighty-something, making this vocal album with her daughter Catherine Russell, a beautiful singer herself and the subject of praise on these blog pages--you check, I'm writing this at 3AM! The songs were recorded between 2008-2011 and they bear witness to a masterful vocalist whose voice has deepened and become ever more burnished, somehow stronger than ever.

She goes through a very interesting set of songs here, from bop to movements from Mary Lou William's Mass, which Carline sang years ago on the original recording, Thad Jones's "A Child is Born" and some rousing gospel duets with her daughter. As a special bonus we have the 1961 demo "Lucille," written by Luis Russell for Louis Armstrong to sing to his wife. It never happened but the demo is something else. It's a rewardingly wide-ranging set sung with soul, grace and elegance.

Carline Ray still had it! She had boiled it down over the years and we get her very essence. Listen and you'll get there. Alas I just read that Carline Ray passed on last month. She was 89. May she rest in peace. All sympathies to her family. This recording captures her in her last years, in full flower. That's how we should remember her.


  1. Hi Grego, Thanks very much for the excellent review of Carline Ray - Vocal Sides. Carline passed away on July 18, 2013 at age 88, obit in
    New York Times
    Paul Kahn

  2. Hi Paul,
    Appreciate the clarification and the obit link. An amazing woman. RIP.