- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

LOS ANGELES Ray Brown, a legendary jazz bassist who played with giants Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and his one-time wife Ella Fitzgerald in a career that spanned a half-century, has died. He was 75.
Mr. Brown died in his sleep Tuesday in Indianapolis, where he was concluding the U.S. leg of a tour, according to John Clayton, a friend and fellow bassist.
Mr. Brown, whose fluid sound defined the bebop era, started his career in the 1940s and performed during jazz's golden age with Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Parker and Bud Powell. He was a founder of bebop and appeared with Mr. Gillespie in the 1946 film "Jivin' in Be-Bop."
"Ray played with such strength and power, and he had such great musical knowledge, he knew every right note to play, and he had the most fantastic technique," said drummer Frank Capp, a close friend.
Ray Matthews Brown was born in Pittsburgh in 1926 and moved to New York in 1945. There he immediately became involved in the emerging bebop revolution.
While playing in Mr. Gillespie's big band in 1946 and 1947, he became Miss Fitzgerald's music director. He married her in the late 1940s and worked with her even after their divorce.
Mr. Brown played with an early edition of what became the Modern Jazz Quartet, recording with the Milt Jackson Quartet in 1951. He subsequently was a founding member of the Oscar Peterson Trio, which ranked among jazz's most popular groups of the 1950s and 1960s. He also was consistently voted top bassist in critics' polls during that time.
Mr. Brown proved the ideal partner for Mr. Peterson's swirling, intricate solos. The Peterson-Brown-Herb Ellis lineup stayed intact until 1957, and Mr. Brown remained with Mr. Peterson until 1966.
In 1960, Mr. Brown created a stir when he had a hybrid instrument built for him that combined features of the cello and bass. The experiment attracted plenty of interest, and eventually Ron Carter had a piccolo designed along similar lines.
After leaving the Oscar Peterson Trio in the mid-1960s, Mr. Brown moved to California. He co-founded the group L.A. Four and appeared on "The Merv Griffin Show."
Among his recordings is the solo effort "Something for Lester."
"He is the primary contributor to bebop from a bassist's standpoint," Mr. Clayton said.
"We had Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk, and there to contribute from the bass chair is Ray Brown. He was extremely important in jazz education, leading a lot of young bass players to learn the instrument."
Mr. Brown lived in the Sherman Oaks area of Los Angeles with his wife, Cecilia.
He was finishing an engagement at the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis at the time of his death.
Mr. Brown had played golf earlier Tuesday and went to take an afternoon nap, Mr. Clayton said. When he did not show up to perform, a band mate went to his hotel, where his body was found in his room.
Along with his wife, he is survived by a son, Ray Brown Jr., of Hawaii.


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