Ray Guntrip

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Biography of Ray Guntrip


Out of the blue is the debut CD of a prolific but, until now, little-known British jazz composer. Well-established on the local jazz scene in his native Kent, Ray Guntrip has more than two hundred compositions to his name. Out of the Blue features the cream of his tunes played by some of the UK’s leading musicians. The enthusiastic involvement of two influential figures on the music scene in bringing Ray’s work to a wider audience is itself a testimony to the quality of the music it celebrates.

The catalyst for the project was Gary Barnacle, sometime tenor-sax player with Tina Turner and Level 42, as well as a host of big-name bands from Jamiroquai to David Bowie, the Clash and Phil Collins. He was prompted to suggest a recording project after playing a number of gigs with Ray’s band, Green Machine. Gary also spotted an additional, and for Ray, unexplored potential: the addition of lyrics.

An inspired recommendation brought Ray together with Tina May, a vocalist with an international reputation, whose recent projects with the legendary pianist Ray Bryant and Bobby Watson, showcased her skills as both world-class lyricist and singer. Impressed with the strength of Ray’s compositions, Tina added words that give an added dimension to the widely contrasting moods of eighteen of his tunes, nine of which are on this CD, from the tongue-twisting Be-Bop - I Gotta Get Away From You! to the rocking He’s Mr Twister and anarchic intensity of Demons Dancing.

“I try to find a story in all these tunes, says Tina. “What’s nice is when someone’s personality comes through their compositions. These are quite quirky – I like that. Be-Bop - I Gotta Get Away From You! was a lot of fun. You know what it’s like when you get a tune in your head and can’t get rid of it.

Squarely rooted in the jazz tradition, Ray’s compositions have a harmonic or melodic twist that gives them an unmistakable signature. Out of the blue reveals the rich variety of his compositions. The 7/4 pulse of Demon Dance, slips from Tina’s hypnotic vocal into a surging tenor exchange between Gary Barnacle and Julian Siegel. Several other pieces have a Latin feel, the two Mambo titles, Santa Maria Dance and Out Of The Blue.

The 12-bar blues underpins He's Mr Twister, while one song, Is it love? puts a new head on top of the familiar chords of the standard, What’s this thing called love? For the most part, though, Ray’s compositions follow their own harmonic path.

Without doubt, the twists and turns of these progressions bring out some outstanding solos. These range from the rapid-fire trombone of Mark Nightingale, heard on several tracks including Be-Bop - I Gotta Get Away From You! and That Mambo Beat, to the exquisite tenor sax of Iain Ballamy on the title track of the CD and the poised lines of Dick Pearce’s trumpet on Santa Maria Dance. Providing a rich harmonic context for Ray’s themes are his arrangements played by, among others, Alan Barnes on various saxes, trumpeters Stuart Brooks and Enrico Tomasso, Nik Carter on alto sax, bassist Alec Dankworth and drummer Tony Bianco. Most of the musicians will be well known from other contexts: Mark Nightingale is the trombonist of choice for many groups, including Steely Dan, while Stuart Brooks has been a Mike Westbrook regular and featured in George Russell’s bands. All but one of the songs features Tina May. Move That Mambo Way is sung by Laura Knight, who also wrote the lyrics for this tune. The one instrumental on this CD, Simple Simon, is an up-tempo, high-voltage waltz whose title celebrates the Canterbury pub of the same name where Ray’s Green Machine has performed for several years.

Out of the blue features several regulars from Ray’s bands: John Willis on drums and percussion, Steve King, bass, percussion and vibraphone, Neil Francis, electric bass, Damian Hawker on guitar who solos on Is it Love?, Dave Harvey, flute and soprano sax, Jon Peel, flugelhorn, Lawrence Fletcher, bass clarinet, Gary Barnacle, tenor, and Laura Knight, backing vocals as well as lead vocal on Mambo Express. And last, but not least, Ray himself is heard variously on grand piano, organ and Fender Rhodes.

Aside from anything else, the musical spectrum covered by Out of the Blue marks this out as an exciting collection of originals. Together, these tunes establish Ray, partnered by Tina May, as a genuinely individual voice on the jazz scene.

Notes by Dave Harvey

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