Bass line solid as an old oak, tone fat and sure as grandma’s biscuits, time impeccable, as dependable as running water. The images endure, from old black and white film images of Dizzy Gillespie’s historic bop big band anchored by that fresh-faced kid over in the right hand corner of the picture, the one so gracefully wearing the band uniform replete with epaulets, the youngster playing such earnest and sure time on the bass, the one destined to grace countless bandstands and influence generations of bassists to come. In the lineage of living bass players, Milt Hinton stands as grandfather, Ray Brown as the daddy of ’em all, certainly the father of the modern jazz approach to the bass.
From the time he hit the scene in 1945, his bandstand exploits read like a scaled down version of a jazz dictionary, and lately he’s taken to inviting a raft of friends onboard his recent series of recordings on the Telarc label.
Additionally Brown is serving as mentor to a number of young pianists and drummers as he continues feeding his road warrior appetite at the helm of potent trios. We caught up with Mr. Brown at his SoCal home during a holiday respite from the road. With two Pittsburgh natives in the conversation, talk turned to how much that storied jazz birthplace had to do with his quest to play jazz.