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Ray Charles & Steve Turre: After Midnight

Steve Turre and Ray Charles
Steve Turre

It’s the stroke of midnight and we’re waiting on Brother Ray. We-photographer Jimmy Katz and his crew, a record company publicist and trombonist Steve Turre-are all assembled in a cramped hotel suite near United Nations Plaza, ready to conduct a joint photo and interview session. Everyone in the room is slightly anxious about the prospect of this late night encounter with soul royalty. Everyone, that is, but Turre, the ultimate hipster, whose ponytailed visage has graced the Saturday Night Live Band for the past 15 years and whose relationship with Ray Charles goes back nearly 30 years.

At half past midnight, with photo backdrop in place and strobe lights humming, a bottle of the finest cognac ordered up from room service and me with my thumb hovering expectantly over the red record button of my cassette recorder, Turre offers this urgent bit of advice to the assemblage, like a college basketball coach prepping his team before the big game: “OK now. Mr. Charles is a very busy man. He’s very professional and is going to want to do this thing quickly, so we can’t waste any time here. Jimmy, you get your thing set up now. And Bill, start rolling the minute he walks in the door. So when he gets here, we can hit it and quit it.”

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Originally Published