Ray Charles leads a big band in this instrumental 1963 Brazilian television performance in Sao Paulo, Brazil, one day before his 33rd birthday.
The all-star band includes the likes of Keg Johnson, Tina Brooks, and David “Fathead” Newman.
…and Ray is playing alto sax! Yes, that’s Ray Charles quoting Charlie Parker on the alto sax.
Parallel to his R&B career, Charles also recorded instrumental jazz albums such as 1957’s The Great Ray Charles. During this time, Charles also worked with jazz vibraphonist Milt Jackson, releasing Soul Brothers in 1958 and Soul Meeting in 1961. By 1958, Charles was not only headlining black venues such as The Apollo Theater and The Uptown Theater, but also bigger venues such as The Newport Jazz Festival (where he would cut his first live album). In 1956, Charles recruited a young all-female singing group named the Cookies, and reshaped them as The Raelettes. Up to this point, Charles had used his wife and other musicians to back him on recordings such as “This Little Girl of Mine” and “Drown In My Own Tears”. The Raelettes’ first recording session with Charles was on the bluesy-gospel inflected “Leave My Woman Alone”.