Written by
Bob Stumpel

July 4

The Ray Charles Big Band’s First Concert In Europe (1961)*

'61 LC ZurichChronology 1961Concert 1961 Zurich

For an update of this article, read this.

Ad for Ray Charles’ first big band concert in Europe, on October 18, 1961 at the Kongresshaus-Bühne in Zurich.
From the Hans Philippi Collection (curated by Mario Schneeberger).

Pages from the Zurich concert’s souvenir brochure.
Collection Mario Schneeberger.
Invitation and ticket for exclusive ‘after party’ organized by the New Jazz Club Zurich, with band members Rudy Powell, Keg Johnson, Dickie Wells and Henderson Chambers as honorary guests.
From the Hans Philippi Collection (curated by Mario Schneeberger).
The concert’s review in Le Matin – Tribune de Lausanne.
From the Hans Philippi Collection (curated by Mario Schneeberger).

The line-up no doubt was similar to the one in Paris, a few days later: musicians – Marcus Belgrave, Wallace Davenport, Phil Guilbeau, John Hunt – trumpets; Henderson Chambers, Leon Comegys, James Lee Harbert, Keg Johnson – trombones; Hank Crawford (alto saxophone, band leader), Rudy Powell – alto saxophone; David Newman – tenor saxophone, flute; Don Wilkerson – tenor saxophone; Leroy Cooper – baritone saxophone; Bruno Carr – drums; Sonny Forriest – guitar; Edgar Willis – bass;  Raelettes – Priscilla “Pat” Moseley Lyles, Margie Hendricks, Gwen Berry, Darlene McCrea.

From an annotated page in Hans Philippi’s copy of the souvenir program (not reproduced here) and from the review in the Tribune de Lausanne, it’s possible to reconstruct (most of) the setlist (I’m quoting the solo attributions from the newspaper review):

  • Whisper Not
  • Happy Faces
  • I Remember Clifford (JH – bg)
  • ?Gone?(DN – fl)
  • Ghana
  • Moanin’ (PG – tp)
  • Let The Good Times Roll (HC – tb)
  • Georgia On My Mind
  • Come Rain Or Come Shine (DW – ts)
  • Alexander’s Ragtime Band (with The Raelettes) (JH – bg)
  • ?Greenbacks?(with The Raelettes) (DN – ts)
  • I Wonder
  • Margie
  • What’d I Say (RC – ep)

Gone is a title unknown to me (or did the newspaper critic refer to a performance of When Your Lover Is Gone?). Greenbacks (also mentioned in the review) is a complete surprise in this live context (and, I’d say,  probably incorrect). The specification of Ray playing electric piano on What’d I Say may well indicates that he did not play his Hammond at all in Zurich.
There is a rumor thatthe concert was taped and/or broadcast by a Swiss radio station, and that a digital copy of the recording has survived. It would be marvelous if that copy would surface one of these days.

* Special thanks toMario Schneeberger, who generously scanned & shared the documents reproduced above.


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