Ray Parker

All About Jazz

Legendary guitarist Django Reinhardt's legacy comes alive on Ray Parker's debut, Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody. A veritable double bass virtuoso, the freelancing Parker is much sought after as a bandleader and side musician in a variety of settings. This delightful foray into the musical world of string-jazz allows him to demonstrate his immense talents as an improviser and instrumentalist.

 

His intricately built arco solo on "Guitar Sammich—Now's The Time" has a lilting cello quality in its tone and an innovative harmonic restructuring. This, and his uniquely dark, plucking, make the tune simultaneously nostalgically retro and excitingly fresh.

 

Joining him on this date are violinist Russell George and guitarist John Hart—regular Parker collaborators both, and whose close camaraderie is on clear display. The old workhorse "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" gets a youthful glow as George and Parker reverse traditional roles. Parker mellifluously bows while George deftly plays the melody pizzicato and with tzigane flair. Hart's yearning guitar adds romance to the passion expressed by his band mates.

 

George handles his violin with adroitness reminiscent of Stéphane Grappelli, his warm and complex improvisation on "Too Close For Comfort" paralleling Parker and Hart's clean, bebop style. George glides smoothly over the ragged rhythms on "The Best Things In Life Are Free," peppering it with brief quotes from a variety of standard, while Hart adds a hefty dose of the blues with his simmering strings.

 

Known for his audacious and captivating sound, Hart sets a crepuscular mood with his sparkling and dark rhythms on the balladic "Zingaro," filling its ambience with an eloquent and lovelorn air.

 

Parker and his trio have released an enchanting work of innovative and accessible music. It echoes in the mind long after the disc has stopped spinning. Hopefully a sophomore effort will soon follow.

Cadence Jazz Magazine

Pure pleasure -- swinging string bass, guitar, and violin played by three casually eloquent masters of the form. Readers may not know Parker as well as they should, but he is a superb musician, arco or pizzicato -- a big tone, beautiful time, splendid intonation -- matched well by guitarist Hart (someone all the best singers in New York admire) and violinist George...whom listeners with long memories will remember as the bassist in the Pee Wee Russell Quartet of the middle Sixties.

 

Yes, the fare may look simple -- classic pop songs from the last century, a blues, a Jobim classic -- but listening to this CD is like eating a tomato off the vine in August -- flavorful, honest, fresh. No tricks, no "innovation", just harmonically sophisticated swing, adept but uncomplicated. And this trio hasn't fallen into the well-intentioned excesses of other string recordings: torrents of notes at too-fast tempos. No, they know what grooving is and practice that most uplifting art throughout.

 

The title is true; this CD is restorative -- jazz homeopathy.

Critical Jazz

While the radio add date is 06/11/12 - the street date is 07/24/12 so some folks may think I am running a tad early on this release. Given the July 4th vacation, advanced ordering including some artists offering direct purchase options long before 07/24/12 the old fashioned street date is somewhat a thing of the paste, the last link to the good old days that record labels refuse to turn loose of.

 

Ray Parker may well be one of the better bassists you have yet to hear about. Why? Simple. Parker is too busy in an attempt to achieve that level of perfection that a true craftsmen recognize. One of the most interesting if not spot on remarks attributed to Parker is his disdain for the use of the word "artist." According to Parker when one sets out to create a work of art the endeavor will inevitably fail as it is pretentious in its inception. While I shorten the idea to taste is subjective and tone deaf lasts forever, you feel me and I certainly appreciate and agree with the perspective with which Parker operates as he refines and even explores his craft.

 

Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody is the joy and embodiment of a musical conversation and the one sheet (press release) lists the joy of the hang is felt throughout each track, I subsequently obtained a slightly less hip translation from one of my smooth jazz friends who put it in terms I can dig. It swings like a beast. This recording was done quickly. All the jazz stars seemed in perfect alignment and there are those times when it simply comes down to "roll tape" and all the rehearsal goes out the window and what is left is the unabashed joy of three craftsmen. A groove you can use. The eclectic mix of tunes never gets tiresome and the vitality of the release borders on the addictive.

 

"Guitar Sammich/Now's The Time" is a Parker tune that magically morphs into a Charlie Parker classic. A string trio that plays bebop? Yes, and quite well! John Hart's single note articulation following a blistering solo from violinist Russell George is like hot fudge on ice cream and even lactose intolerant people like ice cream! Ray Parker does a walking bass line as a masterclass. A tremendous tune to jump start a stellar release. "The Nearness Of You" takes on the deceptive subtle air of a jazz chamber orchestra but with a musical cohesion that is rarely taught more so than felt from within. Another iconic standard "Just In Time" begins to dial the intensity back up without ever losing the enchanting organic feel to this release.

 

An absolute winner.  As entertaining a release as you will hear and one you will come back to again and again!

Music Man

When I was asked to do a pre-release review of the Ray Parker CD "Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody" my first thought was how exciting could a jazz string trio consisting of a bass, guitar and violin be? Well "Who Knew"? The musical sounds and skills showcased in this CD are simply superb. Personally, Ray Parker's work with his bow is fabulous. I love the sound of the upright bass but the pure clear sounds Ray produces with his bow take the listener to a new level of excellence. Joining Ray on this CD are Russell George on violin and Jon Hart on guitar.  These three players produce sounds that would make you think they are brothers. Each of three produce solos that are soft, imaginative and lush.  And when they play together, they fit like a hand in a glove. You can count on one hand the number of great jazz violinists playing today but now you will need another finger because Russell George's performance is outstanding and fresh.  Ray refers to Jon Hart as "Every bass players favorite guitarist" and after listening to this CD just once, it will be clear to all that he is absolutely right.

Improvijazzation Nation

Like the ol’ song says – “If it ain’t got that swing”… you surely don’t need to worry about that on this round… Ray & crew will make you think you’re gonna’ swing ABOVE th’ trees, as tunes like the ultimately smooth “Too Close For Comfort” spin on & on from your MP3 player – over & over, I might add. There are nine succulent swingers for you to soft-shoe (or rug-rip) to, & my personal favorite was the intricate (but FUN) “Just In Time”… lively talent on display throughout each & every track – I give Ray (& crew) a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.97. Get more information at this BLOG about Ray!

Gapplegate Guitar and Bass Blog

Switching styles is an integral part of my listening habits. Like my life, my blogs reflect the wide range of music I tend to pay attention to. Today is no exception, in that we are switching over to a slightly different style of music. It's acoustic bassist Ray Parker with a drummer-less trio of Russell George on the violin and Jon Hart at the guitar, putting together a set of infectiously joyful swing tunes for Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody (self-released). All three have very good facility and put it to fine use on this album of mostly standards. Swing is the thing from Django to Stuff Smith and beyond. These are players who quite clearly take delight working in the earlier style and they do so with a great deal of panache, charm, and skill. Ray has a full-fledged, all-over approach to the bass and shows himself to good advantage as an integral part of this trio. Russell George and Jon Hart are no slouches on their instruments either, so all goes well.  A treat for the ears. Bravo!

The Borderland

Indeed the album swings mightily throughout on most of the tracks. Bassist Ray Parker is the leader of the trio and uses a variety of techniques, including a bow, to make the double bass both a rhythmic and a melodic instrument. Thanks to the guitar of Jon Hart and violin of Russell George there is a strong echo of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli to the sound - and when the trio start flying the music swings as good as anything Count Basie could achieve. Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody has nine tracks, sampling the American and Jazz songbooks, with choice selections from the song books of Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Hoagie Carmichael, Jobim, Jules Styne, and Gordon Jenkins.

LMNOP Magazine

Inviting jazz from Ray Parker. Ray learned a lot from his father Gene Parker and doesn't mind admitting it. Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody is a cool trip into modern minimalistic jazz. Joining Parker on this album are Russell George (violin) and Jon Hart (guitar). Together, the three present some mighty tasty and direct compositions that are sure to please just about anyone who appreciates jazz trios. Parker's bass is inventive and warm and George and Hart provide the perfect accompaniment. We like where Ray seems to be coming from mentally. Instead of preparing set lists for live shows he "reads the audience" to determine what will best suit each situation. How cool is that? Nine fine tracks here including "Guitar Sammich / Now's the Time," "Always," "Zingaro," and "Goodbye." This one hits the spot.

BVS REVIEWS

BVS REVIEWS
by: Bruce VonStiers

Only Strings Jazz -- Bruce Von Stiers

 

Can a jazz album that is strictly strings be any good? Of course it can. One such album is Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody. This album is from upright bass player Ray Parker.

 

Ray got together with a couple of other string players and formed the trio that you hear on the album. The other members of the trio are Russell George and Jon Hart. Russell plays the violin and Jon is on guitar.

 

The album starts out with an original composition. The song is Guitar Sammich / Now's The Time. There is plenty of action for all three of the musicians. The song has strong bass at the beginning then the guitar and violin blends in for fast paced entertainment.

 

Well done is the trio's version of The Best Things In Life Are Free. Toe tapping bass and guitar are almost upstaged by some great violin.

 

Strange, but oddly entertaining is the group's version of My Heart Belongs To Daddy. Each instrument takes a turn at providing what would normally be the vocalist's part of the song.

 

There is a very good rendition of the Irving Berlin song Always.

 

I have always liked the Hoagy Carmichael song, The Nearness of You. It is nicely done here.

 

Fun and entertaining is the head bopping tune Too Close For Comfort. The guitar in the song is equally matched by the bass.

 

Just In Time has a fast paced, foot tapping beat. Great guitar is backed by fast, strong bass.

 

Soft and gentle is the last song on the album, Goodbye. Aching violin and sedate bass along with mellow guitar make this an endearing song.

 

I wasn't too sure at first that Ray could pull off a strictly strings jazz sound. But he and Jon and Russell make it work well. And with solely strings renditions of some classic songs, especially My Heart Belongs to Daddy, Ray may well have found his niche in the jazz world

O’s Place Jazz Magazine

Bassist Ray Parker assembled this string jazz trio to perform nine classic jazz pieces. Guitarist Jon Hart and violinist Russell George are up to the task and they swing hard on some great arrangements of solid tunes. "Always", "The Nearness of You" and "Just In Time" are a few of the best highlighted by solid contributions from each musician. All of the puzzle pieces fit snuggly together start to finish. We especially enjoyed Ray's work with the bow. The recording is spatially correct too, adding to our enjoyment of an excellent session.

Toledo Blade

Toledo has an embarrassing wealth of great and largely overlooked jazz musicians for a city of its size, and bassist Ray Parker is in that bunch. He's been called by some critics as one of the best bass players you've likely never heard about. He's capable of improvising on an upright bass like few bassists can.

 

This loose and fun debut album, recorded in late 2011, has Parker leading a smooth jazz string trio that includes Jon Hart on guitar, Russell George on violin and, surprisingly, nobody on drums. Yes, nobody on drums -- but that doesn't hurt the trio's tempo. Parker is the son of local legend Gene Parker, a saxophonist who also plays vibes, clarinet, flute, percussion, bass, and piano.

 

Songs on this disc include renditions of tunes by Charlie Parker, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and Hoagie Carmichael.

Kara, KSBR 88.5 FM CA

"I Call This My "Stringin'" Disc"

 

Swingin' Never Hurt Nobody - I call this my "stringin'" disc - very interesting trio combination. The best tracks for "Straight" are 4, 1, 2, 6 and 8. This disc is a nice addition since it isn't your standard trio, play on Ray, play on.