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Ray Brown
It was just after his 19th birthday that bassist Ray Brown, who had recently left Pittsburgh for New York, made his first recordings with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Later, he would participate in classic recording sessions with Bud Powell and spend two years in Dizzy's Big Band, a laboratory for the creation of bebop musicians. From 1948 to 1952, Brown acted as musical director for his wife, Ella Fitzgerald, during their brief marriage. He then spent 15 years in the Oscar Peterson Trio, becoming one of the best-known of all jazz bassists. For the last 30 years, he has been active on recording sessions and as the leader of his own trio whenever he wants to get out of the studio.

Brown's work seems classic now, but in the '40s he was part of the bop revolution, along with fellow bassists Oscar Pettiford and Charles Mingus. Following the lead of Ellington bassist Jimmy Blanton, they transformed the role of the instrument from mere timekeeper to that of featured soloist. From Brown's earliest professional gigs right up until the present, he's had phenomenal technical ability, a beautiful, resonant tone, tremendous swing as an accompanist, and, in his solos, brilliant lyricism and inventiveness. He is one of the last of the great bebop masters.

-- Ira Steingroot

The Ray Brown Trio, featuring pianist Geoff Keezer and drummer Greg Hutchison, performs Tuesday through Sunday, Sept. 1-6, at Yoshi's, 510 Embarcadero West in Oakland. Tickets are $16-20; call (510) 238-9200.

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