May 26, 2021
It’s always a pleasure to talk to a jazz artist who has just released their first recording as a bandleader or solo artist. There is a certain excitement in discovering something new, and the energy in our conversation is usually palpable.
When you release your first recording as a leader when you have been a gigging musician for nearly thirty-five years and are no stranger to backing others in the studio, there is even more excitement. And so it is with pianist Ray Gallon, who released Make Your Move , his debut recording as a leader earlier this year. Although Gallon’s resume is full of appearances and recordings with the likes of instrumentalists Ron Carter, Lionel Hampton, Art Farmer, Dizzy Gillespie, Milt Jackson, and Harry “Sweets” Edison, as well as singers Jon Hendricks, Sheila Jordan, Joe Williams, Chaka Khan, and Jane Monheit, this is his first as bandleader.
Make Your Move is a piano trio album, and Gallon has chosen two of the best on the New York scene to back him up. Drummer Kenny Washington (well known for anchoring trios like those led by Bill Charlap) is an old friend of Gallon’s and bassist David Wong (Roy Haynes, The Heath Brothers, Clark Terry, Illinois Jacquet, Benny Green, Eric Reed, Wynton Marsalis, and many others) is a mainstay on the bandstand. As an interesting aside, all three of these artists were born and raised in New York City, something of a rarity.
The album is mostly composed of Ray’s own tunes, many written years ago and key parts of his stage performances. These vary from tributes to his mentors (“Hanks a Lot” for pianist Hank Jones) and a few odd time signature or structural outliers that are pleasers (“Out of Whack”). Two of the tunes have been recorded previously by the Harper Brothers and T.S. Monk, but are presented here in their stripped-down protean versions.
Podcast 819 is my conversation with Ray Gallon as we talk about what took him so long to make his recording debut with his trio, the nature of his tunes and how he has reclaimed them on Make Your Move, and his history with his bandmates, going back to his teens. Musical selections include "Crawdaddy" and "Hanks a Lot."