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May 1998

Aurell Ray
Smile And Smile Again
Seven Venues

With so many guitar players out here and not enough ears to hear 'em, it's damn hard for a cat to grab some attention. Aurell Ray's answer: go acoustic. Honing his craft via stints with Sonny Rollins, Charles Earland and Lonnie Liston Smith during the '70s and '80s, Ray proved the creative viability of acoustic 6/12-string guitars in a jazz context. The guitarist's debut Smile And Smile Again, is a pleasing showcase for his fleet, nimble plecturings and intuitive sense of airy swing. With the help of cool burners like Mulgrew Miller and Gregory Hutchinson, Ray takes his time, easing in sublime original moodies like "Joy Unbound" and the title cut amongst fresh-blooded interpretations of jazz standards ("Skydive," "If"). Aurell Ray is a contender, watch him.

Originally published in May 1998
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