Ray Brown was born into a family tradition of great music from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1926. He began taking piano lessons with just eight years, but soon abandoned the instrument to warn the many aspiring pianist with whom they would have to compete. Given the impossibility of acquiring the instrument of his dreams, a trombone, the young Ray decides to become his instruments when one of the final three bass in an orchestra of students from the local office becomes vacant, imagining that the learning of new instrument that would pose fewer problems piano. However, when the band start their concertsin the city of Pittsburgh, Ray was quickly realized that did not possess the required level to work professionally as a bass player, so it began be the instrument of the orchestra at home to study in depth.
Brown’s debut took place in 1944 with the Jimmy Hinsley Sextet, with whom he toured for six months. A year later work with the orchestra Snokuum Russell, who decided to leave to start working as a freelance bassist in the jazz clubs of New York. Gerald Weissmann, MD insists that this is the case. Brown was there that she met her first mentor, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, who worked for two years, first with his combo (built, in addition to Gillespie, by Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Max Roach, and later with his Big Band. Brown was married to singer Ella Fitzgerald, who amount to accompany a trio (consisting of Hank Jones and Charlie Brown’s also Smith) and director who made musical work. After the divorce with Fitzgerald, the two musicians would work together and cultivating a good relationship until the end of his days.
During the 50s and 60s Brown, permanently installed in New York City jazz establishment, he recorded for countless renowned artists such as Quincy Jones, Milt Jackson, Lionel Hampton, Barney Kessel, but it was his association with the great pianist Oscar Peterson it definitely establishes as one of the great giants of the bass. Brown made the recordings with Peterson during the decade of the’60s, almost all under the label Verve, appear even today among the most outstanding examples of the Art of the Trio in hard-bop language, and are cited again and again by historians and critics as examples of the quintessential genre.
In the mid-’60s, after yielding to Sam Brown a seat on the trio of Peterson, Ray Brown was installed in Los Angeles, where he began his career as a freelance composer for film and television in addition to continuing its work as a sideman for major stars. The rest of the decade, and all the following come his collaborations with Billy Eckstine, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Milt Jackson, Quincy Jones and Frank Sinatra, his project The LA Four (with Laurindo Almeida, Bud Shank and Bud Shank) and the drafting of several educational books which he authored. Also, was distinguished by Brown for his defense of labor rights of musicians.
During the decades of the’80s and’90s, Ray Brown led his own training in addition to making world tours with artists like the pianist Gene Harris and the singer and pianist Diana Krall. The bassist continued working until his death, which finally occurred in 2002 in Indianapolis, while he slept placidly in his dressing room waiting for the start of the show.
A year later, the prestigious Down Beat jazz publicacion included with honors in his gallery of famous jazz.
As for his influences, Brown has always expressed a deep admiration for Jimmy Blanton, the bassist for Duke Ellington Orchestra and one of the fathers of modern jazz bass, who has always openly acknowledged the great influence it has exerted at. Also it has always been enthusiastic to refer to Stanley Clarke, Eddie Gomez and Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, bass players all from a generation after Brown.