Ray Charles: Live In France 1961


Having had the good fortune to see Ray Charles before he began playing piano to the man upstairs, one gets the sense that seeing Charles in his prime would’ve been something truly spectacular. And with the good fortune of old concert recordings and films, that magic has been brought to life with this fine performing from the Antibes Jazz Festival in the summer of 1961, his first European show ever!
Transferred and digitally remastered from the original 16 mm films, Charles and his seven-piece ensemble (excluding the female vocalists Raeletts) weave their way through some swinging jazz instrumental numbers such as "The Story" and the sweet ticklings he uses on "Doodlin’". Looking dapper and with the microphone stand between both hands in front of the piano, Charles shines early on as does saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman on the Latin-tinged "One Mint Julep" with "just a little bit of soul" in all the right places. Meanwhile the bluesier efforts like "Hornful Soul" and "My Bonnie" sinfully effortless.

Although the fact performances from two shows (and bonus footage from two others) result in a few songs being performed twice, it’s difficult not to lap up a heartfelt, soulful "Georgia On My Mind" which is far slower and moodier than what Charles would later turn the song into in his later years. Later on "Ruby" and "I Wonder" enters similar misty-eyed territory. Meanwhile things ramp up with the rollicking "Sticks And Stones" with the Raeletts adding harmonies. And really what needs to be said once the opening notes of "What I’d Say" are rolled out to the loud cheers of the French faithful.
A half century later, the genius of Ray Charles continues….

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