The Walkup – Jeff Ray
Jeff Ray the Ohio born, Harlem resident knows music, not only because he has a Masters Degree in music from Rutgers University, but also because he has mastered the guitar. Jeff’s influences range both far and near and include Dexter Gordon and Wayne Shorter. The Walkup is Ray’s initial CD release. Included in Ray’s band are Aaron Swinn on the Hammond B3 organ and Rhodes keyboard, Darryl Hall on the electric bass, and Victor Wise on drums.
Upon initial listen, this CD did little for me. At times, it seems like Ray is trying too hard to improvise. It also seems like most of the tracks are indistinguishable from each other. It took two more good listens to fully understand what Ray is trying to do on this CD. Now, I must admit that at least two of the tracks seem to be the same, but the eclecticism of Ray finally shined through.
Ray’s influences take some time to master but shine through with a thorough listening. The track "Hot Music" is reminiscent of an intermixing of funk and soul. It really makes the track danceable and enjoyable. "Wise Ton J" or track six on the CD hints at R&B which makes the track smooth but almost too smooth when it becomes repetitive at the end. In all, the listener will thoroughly enjoy Ray’s ability to play the guitar in various styles throughout the CD.
Overall, this would not be something that I would pick up on a release date, but would wait until it hit the bargain bins. Ray has a great ability to play the guitar in many different styles, but often loses the balance of improvisation and planned music. For the most part the improvisation will shine through, while planned compositions will make you want to skip certain tracks.