11 NOV 08 ANNE FARNSWORTH
If I told you the beautifully packaged Ray Sings, Basie Swings is a relatively new release, you might scratch your head. After all, Count Basie passed away in 1984 (though the Basie band lives on) and we lost Ray Charles in 2004.
Concord executive John Burk came across tapes, originally owned by Norman Granz, of a '70s-era concert in Germany that featured Charles and Basie separately on the same bill.
Wowed by Ray's vocals, spot-on and at the height of his power, Burk enlisted drummer/producer Gregg Field, who had played with both Basie and Charles. Together, they formulated a plan to use technology to present Charles' vocals from that long ago appearance with new arrangements played by the current Basie outfit.
Before you groan in protest, this is no digital cut-and-paste hatchet job. Charles' vocals sound as crisp as if he had recorded them last week and, as for the accompaniment, Field enlisted the best and brightest working in music today to arrange, conduct and perform. Tom Scott is one of the conductors and Hammond organist Joey DeFrancesco adds his retro sound to Charles staple, "I Can't Stop Loving You." Singer Patti Austin arranged the vocals and leads a latter-day version of the Raelettes.
Charles sings his signature songs, like "Crying Time," "Busted" and "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning," plus some surprises reworked in his inimitable fashion. A "dream concert" is how the liner notes describes this session (also available in SACD format). And it is like a dream, simultaneously out of time and place and yet perfectly normal. Gotta love technology.