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jazz, free-jazz and improvised music

mark weber | my photo

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That photo was shot at a joint called Widow Brumm’s in Pomona California way back when — circa 1980 — when Ray (who called himself H.Ray Crawford at that time) was living at the YMCA (yes, he’s the guy on OUT OF THE COOL ) (and on a million Jimmy Smith records) I first heard rumors he was playing this dive Bells Barbecue down at 5 Points in Pomona (not recommended for white folks) and caught him there a couple times and then caught him at Jimmy Smith’s Supper Club. Just a great great guitarist.

I got to be friends with him and we hung out a lot, because he just lived in the next town over from me, he had a converted ice cream truck that he tooled around in, and in the back was a huge wire basket full of tennis balls, he was a tennis player. He started out as a reed player, but got TB in the 40s and switched to guitar, but I got to see him play a lot of flute and some sax, when the dude in Smith’s band loaned him a sax for awhile. When he was still a reed man, living in Pittsburgh, he started a group with Art Blakey, and then Fletcher Henderson took the entire group and formed a big band around it.

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In the mid- 90s Bobby Bradford would see Ray walking around Pasadena. And then I heard he was in San Diego. Then he died Dec. 30, 1997 in Pittsburgh, according to the news.

The story of how this record was made is part of the feature interview I did with him for CODA magazine around that time (1980). He made a couple great great Lps for the Los Angeles label Dobre which are only available in Japan. I should play them on my radio show tomorrow. Sure glad to see this record is available, again.

Alan Bates promised me some dough for that photo but it never came through. I understand that that is typical of his business dealings. He had somehow tracked me down to my flunky job on the 8th floor of Standard Oil, in the mailroom, in Cleveland! — my stupervisor comes and says there’s a phone call for me, and I go to the phone, and it’s Alan Bates asking if I have any photos of Ray for this release. So, I says, Yes, I do. But theyre all back in California. BUT, I knew the Toronto office of CODA would have a file of my photos so me & Janet made that an excuse to visit Toronto and I went and scored one of my photos for Alan. And the rest is history.

I still don’t have a clue how he tracked me down to that mailroom? It was 1986. And I was on the lam from California. Mark Weber 30 January 2008

selected Ray Crawford appeareances:

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3 Comments

  1. Great to find this. Just to add a little to the story, I knew Ray when I was a child (he dated my mother for a couple of years) I remember him as a very warm, caring, and spiritually in tune person who was like a 2nd dad to me. The last time I saw him he was sitting on a bus stop in Pasadena and I gave him a ride home. We sat in the car and talked for a couple of hours about life. It’s a nice memory of a really good person (in addition to being a great musician). 🙂 He also was very involved in the Baha’i Faith, and was an active member of the Altadena Baha’i community when he died. By the way, Ray died in his home at the Quaker Retirement Center in Altadena (not Pittsburg) and is buried in Glendale, CA

  2. From my field notes — April 21, 1980 —
    club gig at Widow Brumms, Pomona, California
    ————————————————————————-
    Tunes:

    “Another You” — H.Ray bebops the hell out of this one.

    “The Shadow of Your Smile” — during his solo H.Ray went into funk vamp
    and loud grunting scatting along with gritty solo.

    “Pick Me Up” — H.Ray said was about a pick, the plectrum [a joke]
    He said from the stage: “The tune is fast. So, you’ve got to pick
    up and down. I wish there was somebody up here who could play
    it because I can’t. It features our percussionist Charles Dumas.”

    “Motherless Child” — H.Ray: “This tune is for everybody who didn’t go
    to church last Sunday. Boy, everybody’s got a guilty look on
    their face (laughter) This is a spiritual called Motherless Child.”
    Ray takes this song into the alley, smoking, bump & grind,
    deep soul music from deep inside Black.

    “Days of Wine and Roses” — H.Ray in his solo falls out of the tune and
    goes into another number from his repertoire, I can’t recall the
    name, then he goes freeform for awhile before returning to “Days”
    and out.

    H.Ray was a regular member of Jimmy Smith’s band at this time, playing
    at the Jimmy Smith Supper Club out in the San Fernando Valley.

    “Willow Weep For Me” — gorgeous. Harold Howard takes a touching
    trumpet solo. [ Harold was my running buddy those years.]

    At the break H.Ray explained to me that the pick guard on his
    Tal Farlow Gibson model guitar is off of a Gretsch. It’s over-size, so,
    one of his switches is obscured under it.

    He says, “That’s what jazz is about: rapping with your friends, having
    a little taste, having something good to eat, and playing good music.”

    Note: H.Ray was a teetotaler and didn’t use drugs — and from what I
    could gather, I doubt that he ever did. “a little taste” usually refers
    to a nice mixed alcoholic drink but not always.

    “All Blues” — H.Ray at heart is a saxophonist — more on that later —
    but he was as good as it gets as a guitarist, too.

    “Green Dolphin Street” — Hardcore swinging bebop. A couple tried to
    dance but it was too difficult to dance to bebop.

    *Al Harrell, who lives in Claremont, played the drums the last set, sings
    and plays organ.

    Ray’s wife at this time: Mariane Crawford

  3. More from my field notes:

    H.Ray Crawford Quartet
    March 30, 1980
    Widow Brumms, Indian Hill Blvd, Pomona
    (south of Rt.10 about two clicks)
    H.Ray — guitar
    Charles Dumas — drumset
    Keith Hanratty — Hammond B3 organ
    Harold Howard — trumpet

    “Alone Together”
    “Shiny Stockings”
    “Ain’t No Sunshine”
    “Motherless Child”
    “Green Dolphin Street”
    “Stormy Monday”
    and a fanfare I didn’t catch the name
    + three full sets of music in this
    supper club

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