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Ray Brown Jr.: Friends and Family

If you’re expecting any vocal similarity between Ray Brown Jr. and his mother, Ella Fitzgerald, you’ll be disappointed. Brown is, after all, not her natural son, but was adopted by Fitzgerald and Ray Brown in 1949, midway through their six-year marriage. But if his parents’ acute musicality isn’t in his genes, then he must have absorbed it, because Jr. is a first-rate performer with a deep, slightly raspy sound that suggests a blend of Bobby Short and Michael McDonald, plus a soupcon of Billy Eckstine.

The 59-year-old scion started out in the music business in the ’70s, toying with rock and then country before setting into a pop/soul groove. Friends and Family is his fourth album, but the first that inches toward jazz. The “friends” are an eclectic bunch, spanning young (Jane Monheit, Sophie B. Hawkins), old (septuagenarian David Somerville, one-time lead singer of the ’50s group the Diamonds), iconic (James Moody, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Dionne Warwick), obscure (little-known but impressive jazz chanteuse Kim Hoyer) and unexpected (Oscar-nominated M*A*S*H actress Sally Kellerman).

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