Ray Charles In Brussels (1975)
A collector of Ray Charles records and recordings recently provided me with a copy of an odd tape, with an uncertain provenance. What he knows is that the five tunes that are on the recording come from a radio program that was aired by the French station France Inter, and presented by Julien Delli Fiori. The tape, however, only has the music, and misses Delli Fiori’s comments.
What my correspondent assumes is that the recording took place at a gig in a French speaking city, probably Brussels, in 1975. (The latter assumption is based on a phrase where you can hear announcer Joe Adams say “Merci!” to the audience).
In ’75 the band also performed in Lausanne, Switzerland, and in Canada (although I have no documentation that they played in e.g. Montreal or Quebec). But the gig in the Belgian capital, at the Palais des Beaux-Arts/Paleis voor Schone Kunsten on April 27, with princess Paola in the audience, is certainly the most probable ‘candidate’.
In the mid ’70s Brother Ray’s popularity may have been at a relatively low point, but I think musically it was one of his best periods. Listening to the Japan live album, and watching the Madrid concert – both recorded in 1975 – I’d say that his voice, and his chemistry with the Orchestra and The Raelettes have rarely been better.
The tunes are:
- [Unidentified fragment +] Our Suite (Ray Charles Orchestra) (solos by Johnny Coles – tp, Tony Matthews – g, John Bryant – ds)*
- Intro + Georgia On My Mind
- Feel So Bad (v. 1)
- Feel So Bad (v. 2)
- Guess Who I Saw Today (The Raelettes)
|Ray & Raelettes at
unknown venue, c. 1975.
Our Suite (#1) gets an excellent treatment, with incredible trumpet acrobatics in the highest registers by the incomparable Little Johnny Coles, and one of the most elaborate drum solos ever recorded by the Orchestra, delivered by John Bryant.
What makes the ‘Brussels’ tape extra special, is that it holds two complete versions of Feel So Bad (#3 and #4). The doublure makes it probable that the band performed on 2 consecutive days in Brussels, or that it was a double-concert gig. Both renditions, with of course some variations, got the outrageous treatment best known from the 1975 Japan concert, where you can hear The Genius playfully explore the full 3 (or is it 4?) octaves of his vocal reach.
Guess Who I Saw Today (#5) is the tune written by Murray Grand and Elisse Boyd (from Leonard Sillman’s Broadway revue New Faces, 1952). I assume it’s Dorothy Berry (Durr) who took the solo on this song.
The precise line-up of the band in Brussels is unknown, but it was probably similar to the personnel at the Madrid concert on May 13, 1975 (with the certain exception of Johnny Coles, who couldn’t make it to Madrid due to an eye injury**).
Unfortunately, it’s not clear if France Inter’s jazz programs have been decently archived. It’s not entirely impossible that the other parts of the concerts are still floating around – either in their vaults, or in the possession of their former employees, or in the precious collections of Ray Charles aficionados.
* Many thanks to John Bryant and Robbie Kwock for some of the details. ** Information kindly provided by John Bryant and Ken Tussing.