• WBGO Says Farewell To Jazz Pioneer Carline Ray

    July 23, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Add new comment | Filed under: Jazz Alive, RIP

    We say goodbye to Carline Ray, who passed away July 18th. Over seven decades as a professional, the singer and bassist was a trailblazer and tireless advocate for jazz - and especially for the women who play it.

    On her eighty-eighth birthday earlier this year, Carline released her debut album, Vocal Sides. The album was produced by her daughter, Catherine "Cat" Russell, an acclaimed vocalist in her own right. To celebrate the occasion, Cat performed a special week of shows at Jazz at Lincoln Center in Carline's honor.

    Just before these shows, Cat Russell stopped by WBGO to chat with Gary Walker to talk about Carline's legacy and life in music, and we'd like to share this heartfelt conversation again with you now.

    Thank you Carline, we will miss you!

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    Carline studied classical piano and composition at Juilliard, like her father, a member of James Reese Europe's Society Orchestra, starting at age sixteen. She soon found herself immersed in New York's jazz scene, and one night at The Nest - an after-hours club on 52nd Street - she was asked to sing. A pianist named Art Tatum shyly asked if he could accompany her.

    "Did I play alright for you?" he asked afterwards.

    Carline played in small groups with classmate Edna Smith, on both guitar and piano. Both were invited to join The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-women band, after graduation. After the Sweethearts disbanded, she sang and toured with the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra.

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    Back in New York in the 1950s, she sang backup for pop stars like Bobby Darin and Patti Page, and earned her master's at the Manhattan School of Music. She married pianist and bandleader Luis Russell in 1956, and daughter Catherine "Cat" Russell soon followed.

    Carline played and sang for many years with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, as they performed works by Duke Ellington and Mary Lou Williams. She was a longtime supporter of the nonprofit International Women in Jazz, and later for Musicians Union New York Local 802's Justice for Jazz Artists campaign.

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