## 1-3 - Ahmad Jamal
## 4-6 - Benny Green
## 7-8 - Dado Moroni
## 9 - Geoff Keezer
## 10-11 - Oscar Peterson
========= from the cover ==========
The musical life of Ray Brown has been so rich, varied, and fruitful that the list of his friends is something of an encyclopedia on its own. His fifty-year career has found him playing with the shining lights of jazz and popular music - Dizzy Gillespie, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Oscar Peterson, to name just a few and he has led groups and provided the rock-solid foundation or adhesive glue for countless others. Perhaps no other bass player has gained such universal respect, admiration, and, yes, friendship. As Telarc producer Elaine Martone notes, it is a tribute to Ray Brown's position in the music world that he can routinely, as a matter of course, gather around him the caliber of players that appear on Some Of My Best Friends Are ...
The idea for this extraordinary series of collaborations came from Ray Brown himself. Since he has indeed worked alongside jazz masters of every instrument and from many eras and styles, Ray decided he'd like to do a series of recordings that paired him with the greatest names on a particular instrument. To surprisingly complement these couplings, he also thought it would be intriguing and rewarding to play with musicians whose musical company he had never shared before.
It is only fitting that this series should start with piano players. Many think of Ray first as the bassist in the great 1950s and '60s trios of Oscar Peterson, and he has also had subsequent long-lasting gigs with Gene Harris, Benny Green, and Monty Alexander. The brilliant thing about Ray's playing with these "monsters" is that it is never subsumed or relegated to support status. Ray is a true equal - a fact that Oscar himself acknowledged when, in his autobiography The Will To Swing, he spoke of his trio partners fully living up to the challenges of his own playing. The five pianists playing here are certainly among Ray Brown's best friends, though two of them had never worked with him before. This is jazz at its recorded best - top-notch musicians laying down seemingly effortless and seamless improvisations that are breathtaking in their spontaneity.
Young Geoff Keezer (who has recently been working with another special master, Art Farmer) got what he says was "the best present of my life" when, on his birthday, he received'a call from Ray Brown asking him to work on this record. Ray has frequently discovered, nurtured, and instructed young players more even by example than by direct teaching and Keezer becomes, as a result of this disc, the newest student. Ray and Geoff have completely rethought the great standard, Close Your Eyes, and minted it in shining new currency. Ray's funky intro leads the way in and out of the tune for which Geoff is a bit Monkish before stretching into a full groove.
Italian pianist Dado Moroni, who is in the process of settling in New York, provides one of the album's truly unusual delights. For his first recording with Ray Brown, the pianist does an all-out impersonation / tribute to Erroll Garner, complete with grunt. Compounding the wackiness is the fact that it's a Garner take on John Coltrane's Giant Steps! Ray starts with a slow statement of the theme on bowed bass with Moroni commenting quietly behind. Then, from out of a delirious nowhere, comes the Garner stuff which, after several loopy minutes, shifts gears into an up-tempo excursion more in keeping with the original tone of the piece. But with another shift, we're back to Garner and Ray's arco bass. Moroni is clearly not awed by tradition new or old, and he and Ray just smile all the way through. The trio is up and cooking for My Romance, which demonstrates that the romance still has sparks.
Though Benny Green is still a young jazz lion, he is, by now, a seasoned pro with Ray, having worked in the bassist's trio for several years, as well as smokin' in his own trio. Benny considers Ray the greatest of teachers and pays homage to him in Ray of Light, a happy original. The pianist takes Lover for an exhilarating ride, with Ray providing much of the acceleration, and then slows things down for a relaxed Just a Gigolo.
Ray Brown and Oscar Peterson play together as naturally as breathing. They have been soul-mates since they first played at Jazz at the Philharmonic, nearly fifty years ago, and their musical relationship has become, if anything, fuller and deeper. Their tunes here are spontaneous and natural - a timelessly bluesy How Come You Do Me?..., and a provocative St. Tropez. (The latter tune is from Oscar's pen.) On some level Oscar and Ray have been together all this time.
Perhaps the greatest of this set's surprises is that it offers the first musical meeting between Ray and Ahmad Jamal. Here is one of the most original stylists the music has ever produced, finding in the veteran bassist an understanding heart and soul, attuned to the variety of places the pianist regularly brings his improvisations. Three of the most played tunes in the jazzman's book reveal new colors and aspects without in the slightest showing signs of wear or fatigue. You're in the company of geniuses.
As the segments of this album were being recorded (most on one day), each pianist would wander by and listen to the others. They did this in joy and appreciation of keyboard mastery, certainly, but also out of love and admiration for the wonderful bass player who brought everyone together, the remarkable Ray Brown.
- Donald Elfman