Gifted guitarist Jeff Ray puts every ounce of soulful funk he's soaked up over the years into The Walkup, a jazz fusion CD brimming with crowd pleasing guitar work, creative solo exchanges, and overall top-notch musicianship. Joined by stellar musicians such as Victor Wise (drums), Aaron Swinn (keys) and Darryl Hall (bass), Ray lays out his honed chops over six original tracks and two covers ("Everybody Loves The Sunshine" and "Hot Music"). He's comfortable with delivering his music in a variety of tones, from shimmering clean to rock-edged dirty, which keeps the aural satisfaction at a high level throughout the disc. Apparently, the Harlem environment is one key to this Ohio-born guitarist's fusion approach - one that will certainly be appreciated by any fan of well-developed music with plenty of surprises.
Born in 1970, Ray picked up the guitar at age 14. A few years later he had his mind blown by the likes of Wayne Shorter, Dexter Gordon and Kenny Burrell. Attending Ohio's Miami University on a football scholarship, he went on to earn a music degree from Ohio State. Then Ray found himself at Rutgers, seeking jazz wisdom at the graduate level with Kenny Barron and the late Ted Dunbar. He headed to Harlem, and would soon appear on The Onus' self-titled 1996 debut, as well as the 2000 follow-up, "Reoccurring Dream". This led to a connection with Hipnotic Records' Tony Haywood, who set in motion plans for the guitarist's own debut CD.
Ray sees himself taking his music to the jam band audience, hopefully playing festivals and larger venues and making people dance. He'll always, however, remain true to his Harlem experience.
Jim Eigo, Jazz Promo Services
Web site: www.jeffray.net