Written by
Bob Stumpel

April 1

Ray Charles Attending A Count Basie Concert In Juan-Les-Pins (1961)

'61 LC Antibes

Listening to Basie,
with gf Raita Johnson.
Photo by J.-P. Leloir.

For the history of contemporary music, INA, the media archive of the public French broadcasting organization, is an unsurpassed treasure trove. A diamond in their collection is the set of Ray Charles’ concerts in Antibes (Juan-les-Pins) in 1961.
These concerts are known from film footage produced and directed by Jean-Christophe Averty, broadcast by French TV in 1961 and 1962, around 2008 released on an illegal DVD, entitled Jazz à Juan, with mediocre video and sound quality, and on a more recent, legit DVD, Ray Charles Live In France 1961 (Eagle Vision DVD EREDV904) with a considerably better video quality and a much better audio which originated from recordings that were simultaneously produced for the French radio organization ORTF.
To add to the confusion, INA has recently published a generous portion of tracks (without applying any obvious selection criteria), edited from the film footage, with excellent video quality (including the original audience shots, and the orginal ‘couleur local’ shots) and a soundtrack with an acceptable quality from the orginal film’s soundtrack.

You can enjoy the clips here (warning: slow buffering of the media streams!).

In Antibes Ray shared the bill with Count Basie and his Orchestra. From a photo series shot by Jean-Pierre Leloir I already knew that Ray attended one of Basie’s concerts. Therefore I was happy to spot a (nervous-looking) Genius in the audience in yet another clip that was recently made public by Ina, with a version of Smack Dab In The Middle, performed by the Basie band, featuring Ossie Smith.

Count Basie Orchestra, ft. Ossie Smith – Smack Dab In The Middle (Ray briefly appears at 1:15):

Ray & Raita in Antibes, maybe
at the same concert.
Photo by J.-P. Leloir.

This little sequence with Ray may even have been shot during another part of the concert. (Probably unrelated, Ray himself released the song in June 1964, on the album Have A Smile With Me; ABC 495).

Ina has also published an interview (by André Francis) of Jacques Benoit Levy, the promoter of the 2nd Jazz à Juan festival, which was aired on June 1, 1961 (about 6 weeks before the event). Levy announced that Ray had just confirmed his participation in the festival, after cancelling a few assignments in the U.S. (when they started negotiating 5 months before, Ray didn’t have one single gap in his booking schedule), bringing a “grand formation” with “8 [sic!] musiciens et 4 chanteuses”, and confirming that Ray would sing, play piano and organ [sic!], …and alto.

For various remaining Ina footage from the 1961 Antibes festival – with performances by the Count Basie Orchestra and Rosetta Tharpe – check this.


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