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The Genius does JATP

Berlin, 1962
Berlin, 1962
By Ray Charles

Pablo / Fantasy Records: 1996

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This review first appeared in the July 19, 1996 issue of the North County Times.

Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic tours were more known for featuring mainstream and bop jazz stars, folks such as Ella Fitzgerald or Charlie Parker, than they were for R&B. But Ray Charles could play it both ways, and for a 1962 JATP appearance in Berlin, Charles assembled a big band and ran it through a set of most of his hits: "Hit the Road, Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "What'd I Say," "Hallelujah I Love Her So."

The band was tight – Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman on saxes, Basie alum Dickie Wells on trombone and, of course, the Raelettes on backing vocals.

A highlight? Almost any song here would qualify – pick your own. Near the top of most lists will be a radically different reading of "Georgia On My Mind" – Charles' dirgelike vocals backed only by his own piano and Newman's flute. Absolutely gorgeous.