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Musings and Thoughts

”What we do is not art, as art is perceived and not created. Those setting out to create art will invariably fail. We are craftsmen; journeymen. We are always on a pursuit to improve our craft. As musicians, we are scientists and inventors, sometimes coming up with new things, but our main goal must be in growth as musicians. When we are successful, listeners may perceive what we do as art. When one sets out to create art, the endeavor will invariably fail as it is pretentious in its inception.”

Being brought up by a professional musician, band leader and educator, Ray was given the fundamentals of music and the music business.

RP: From my father, Gene Parker, I received my entire start and the opportunity to get into music. Dad is a world-class player as well as a teacher. From him I learned what it means to be a full time, professional musician. By this, I’m talking about what it takes to be on a constant path forward in improving one’s skills. This includes the skills to survive and succeed as sideman. You must convincingly play many different styles and have basic skills together like reading, showing up on time and dressing properly. I learned how to conceptualize the theory of music, how to develop melodic lines and how to play my role in the rhythm section. I also learned how to read a room, which is a terribly important skill that I think too often gets overlooked. Reading a room and choosing the right material on the fly is absolutely the same as having a conversation with someone. If you’re not sympathetic in conversation, people will tune out.

Developing musically when the amplified bass sound was in vogue, Ray had been able to satisfy his ‘vocal’ needs on the bass with the long sustained notes that this style offered. In his desire to constantly move forward he found himself getting a darker sound as he pursued purely acoustic playing, losing the vocal pizzicato. He found a new voice with the bow.

RP: For most of my time playing I never liked arco bass as the exposure that I had was mainly jazz players squawking through the last couple of notes on a ballad or squeaking through a solo. My perception was that the bow on the bass had a generally terrible sound. The few classical players that I’d been exposed to were unappealing to me as well, with the exception of Francois Rabbath. Even his sound wasn’t that interesting to me – though he can really, really play. Everything changed when I heard Edgar Meyer for the first time and realized what is possible on the bass as a melodic instrument. Parallel to discovering and developing the bow I was seeking a darker, thicker and more percussive pizzicato sound. This sound lends itself better to the role of bass within the rhythm section because it doesn’t fight with the other instruments on stage for oxygen. But, with the darker pizzicato sound I lost the vocal sound that I’d developed. The bow has given that back to me and more.

Although Ray’s tendency is more toward being a band leader rather than a sideman, he has only recently taken his direction.

RP: With my father as a band leader and my tendency toward being a band leader, I’ve actually not pursued this course with any enthusiasm until now. I’ve always had good success as a leader because I assemble bands that love to play together, and this is infectious to the audience. If the band is having a blast, everyone gets involved in that energy and it really doesn’t matter too, too much what material we choose. I have stayed away from leading until now as I didn’t feel that I really had myself polished into a product that I felt strongly about presenting. Leading a band for the sake of leading doesn’t appeal to me. Now, with the bow as part of my voice and the years that I’ve specialized in drummerless groups, my vision and strength have come into focus enough that I feel that I have a unique voice to present.

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