Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thinking about Ray Ellis

The death this week of arranger Ray Ellis, who was equally at home in the worlds of jazz and pop ("Splish Splash" and "Lady in Satin"), caused me to also think about my friend, still alive and well musician Nino Tempo. He also, at one time, "worked both sides of the (musical ) street." On the one hand, he functioned as Phil Spector's number two (after Jack Nitzsche) arranger of choice. Including playing down n' dirty Joe Houston-style sax on some of the sides. And then there are all those pop and rock recordings ("Deep Purple," etc.) he produced on his own. But he was also arranger Don Costa's first chair tenor sax player. And he even co-wrote a song that Sinatra recorded.

Today, he plays strictly jazz on his horn and sometimes naturally sounds so much like Stan Getz that there was once a (now-removed) Wikipedia entry that Nino Tempo was a pseudonym for Getz. These days his music activities are strictly related to jazz. And then there is that beautiful 1993 bossa album by Nino that was co-produced and arranged by . . .RAY ELLIS.

Only this week, this blog featured a couple of songs, by singer Jennie Smith, that were arranged by Ellis. The tracks heard herein are from Jennie's 1957 album with him (it is being reissued in Japan next month BTW). The following year Smith recorded with Ellis, once more, on an album that featured a far more commercial sound. i.e. lots of echo and slapback bass, in other words one can easily detect the "fine touch" of Mitch Miller in the mix. But both, in their own way, are quite wonderful and demonstrate just how versatile an arranger Ray Ellis was. They simply don't make those turn-around-on-a-dime studio guys the way they used to! (Back to two-track!) The twilight of the gods, I tell you, the twilight of the gods.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

One the Most amazing records he arrnaged was "Young Alive and In Love" for Paul Anka (RCA 1962)
With intros written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Huesen (sp?). This recording is so under-rated.
It is definately one the great arrangemnts ever recorded.
Especially listen to "Falling in Love with Love" a powerhouse musical experience which close like a ladies hand-held fan and then relaxes on a cool feather bed.

Robert Marcus