¡The 90 day Ray challenge!

Alex Nauman and I were recently blessed with the opportunity to play with the great jazz drummer Jeff Hamilton; drummer for Ray Brown and Diana Krall, just to name a few. Both of us were so freaked out, that we were acting like we had won the lottery. In a way, for me, we did. Jeff came out to see us at our regular Thursday night jazz jam at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company and was into us enough to let us play with him the next night for the Montana day of Percussion held at MSU-B – none of this would have been possible without the careful prodding from Luke Kestner. The greatest thing about playing with Jeff Hamilton was the “master class” Alex and I received while we rehearsed with him. The biggest thing exposed was my lack of knowledge for Ray Brown’s style (trust me, there were many other things). I have listened to Ray and was getting into him more, because of a conversation with Sam White, but had never seen the true importance of his playing.

I had always gravitated to players that had more interplay, like Scott Lafaro, Miroslav Vitous, and Gary Peacock. When my ears were opened to Ray and his “Meat and Potatoes” style, my jaw dropped. He is in the pocket so deep that I just laugh when I listen to him. A tremendous player! No other player has brought me so much joy! His solos are thoughtful and bluesy; his walking lines are anchor strong, and his phrasing and dynamics are perfect. So, to make a long story short, I have decided to finish the Ray Brown Bass method book. I am playing pages over and over again to let it sink in, not just to say I finished it – I want to own it. I am also challenging myself to listen to only Ray Brown groups in my car for at least 90 days. I got the idea from a Bozeman drummer, Mike Gillian, who only listened to Latin/Cuban music for a year to get himself ready to play the style more accurately(it worked).  For me, already after one month, I have noticed a huge improvement in my playing – my musician friends can attest as well. I am excited to hear the development over the summer, and to pay homage to one of the greats by carrying on his amazing style in a respectful manner.  Keep in touch to hear how it goes!

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