Tim Ray Agitated Cat Music

Quotes about Tim in Concert

Tim Ray’s talents have drawn rave reviews from writers and musicians around the world.

"...and that Tim Ray at the piano - he slays me every single night!" — Bonnie Raitt, on-mike from her 2002 summer tour with Tim.

"Tim surprises us on that song every night. And it's always a good surprise." — Lyle Lovett, on-mike from his 2003 summer tour with Tim.

"Pianist Tim Ray emerges as one of the most important new piano voices..." — Michael G. Nastos, All-Music Guide 1999.

"Tim Ray, a masterful pianist, always anticipates the next great thing to play." — Ed Friedland, Tucson Weekly, September 1998.

"We’ll get behind anything Tim Ray wants to try." — 8 Days A Week column, Boston Phoenix, April 2003.

"[Tim Ray's] contributions on piano were first rate; he's a highly intuitive musician with superb technical skills." — Adrian Chamberlain, Victoria (BC) Times Colonist, November 2003.

"Boston pianist Tim Ray suplied the haunting elegy to 'Dakota', and elsewhere merrily romped from blues to Monk." — review of Lyle Lovett concert, Dan Gewertz, Boston Herald, 8/19/01.

"Pianist Tim Ray, a stalwart accompanist for singers here and worldwide..." — Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe, March 30, 2000.

“...Lovett's moving more and more into a jazz direction, with his versatile and well-rehearsed Large Band bebopping at the slightest provocation. Pianist Tim Ray was especially impressive in those forays.” — Variety Magazine reviewing a Lyle Lovett concert, May 8th 1992.


"...an irreverent exploration of the music of Ellington, Monk, and Mingus, as well as the trio's own compositions" — Joan Anderman (discussing Tim’s 50/50 Trio), Boston Globe, Jan. 5, 2007.

“Pianist Tim Ray ... displayed responsiveness and keen dynamics, and Ray outdid his several fine solos with a chorus where he provided the singer's [Stacey Kent’s] only accompaniment on "You Go to My Head." – Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe, 4/13/00

"... he played with spectacularly delicate force. "-David Peschek, The Guardian (London), 10/10/07


“...The Tim Ray Trio took the town by storm again... Tim Ray is a young man but he plays a mean piano. Mean to the point of amazing.” — Telluride Times referring to an appearance at the Telluride Jazz Festival.

"... [Tim Ray] is unquestionably a world-class musician." — Herb Pomeroy, trumpet legend, 1996.


Quotes about Tim on Recordings

On Ideas & Opinions (Tim Ray, GM Recordings, 1997): "Gunther Schuller’s GM Record label opens the door to Ray’s sophisticated, articulate and sometimes humorous approach to music. Ray displays highly developed harmonic, rhythmic and improvisational skills... the music of Tim Ray provides listeners a fresh and satisfying balance of the emotional, intellectual, traditional and modern sounds of jazz.” - Bryn Carlson, Medford Citizen

"...an impressive trio to date..." and "...a most attractive session." — David Lewis, Cadence Magazine, September 1997.

"[Tim is] a pianist who is both a perfectionist and an explorer. What a sound he gets from the instrument, and how precisely he articulates each idea. At the same time, Ray is never a predictable improviser. Rather than settle for familiar strategies, he works his way into corners and back out again. We never hear the risk, though, because Ray plays with so much assurance, and because he can expand the certainty of his own spontaneous creations onto the larger ensemble canvas." — Bob Blumenthal, liner notes from Ideas & Opinions.

On Transitions (New World Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, 2010): "Tim Ray's every piano statement - from tossed-off interludes to well-framed solos - smacks of aware genius." - Fred Bouchard, Downbeat, November 2010.

On This Thing Called Love (Kris Adams, Jazzbird, 1999): "The musicians are individually excellent, particularly pianist Tim Ray, as shown in brilliant solos such as his alternating of block chords with assertive treble-lined improvisation on 'In Your Own Sweet Way.' On more than one track, Ray reveals his technique of building his solos into a story, starting with a minimal motif and growing through crescendo and thematic development into denouement." — Bill Donaldson, JazzImprov, November 1999.

On Orbis (Bruno Raberg, Orbis Recordings 1998): "Tim Ray is an effective pianist with an attractive touch..." — JazzTimes, August 2000.

On Blue Vistas (Cercie Miller, Jazz Projects, 1998): "Ray is really the star of the date... His purposeful, thoughful melodic fills are tossed out to inspire his bandmates, and it works." — Michael G. Nastos, WEMU (Ann Arbor, MI), July 1, 1999.

On Maria (Jane Siberry, Reprise/Warner, 1995): “[Jane Siberry] first noticed Tim Ray - whose strong genius at the keyboard centers the whole record - playing with Lyle Lovett and later with the jazz band Orange Then Blue. ‘I thought these were the two best pianists I’d ever seen,’ she says, ‘until I realized they were the same man.’” — Musician Magazine, December 1995.

"...Tim Ray [is] superb throughout." — The Wire (Great Britain), November 1995.

"...the skillful playing of pianist Tim Ray." — The Metro (San Jose, CA), October 1995.

"... Tim Ray, an inimitable pianist with a soft, syncopated touch..." — Jeremy Schlosberg, Citybeat (Cincinnati, OH), December 18, 1997.

On Count Your Blessings (Alert Recordings, 1994): "Ray’s bold accompaniment only strengthens these glorious reditions..." — NOW Magazine (Toronto, ON), November 24, 1994.

On While You Were Out (Orange Than Blue, GM Recordings, 1994): "...Tim Ray’s brilliant take on the Irish tunes..." — Stephen Pederson, The Chronicle Herald, April 10, 1995. "...Ray plays impressive piano throughout." — Barry McRae, Jazz Journal Intl., November 1994.

“Glistening solos by ... Tim Ray (piano) provide gobs of excitement, along with alternating motifs and forward movement.” – Glenn Astarita, AllAboutJazz.com.

On Casa Corazon (Mili Bermejo, Green Linnet Recordings, 1994): "[Tim Ray’s] solos take flight, but always remain connected to the tune. On the bittersweet “Quiero,” Ray tests the arc of one lovely figure and then streches it into the closing vocal... Tim Ray's improvisational gifts are given ample exposure throughout the recital. He plays with both hands and thinks ahead with both sides of his brain. Berklee should be thinking about recording his trio on their own.” (The college did award Tim a recording grant the following year.) — David DuPont, Cadence Magazine, December 1994.

On From This Moment On (Lisa Thorson, Brownstone Recordings, 1994): "Pianist Tim Ray was particularly effective in a duet with Thorson on 'Skylark', but his accompaniment was sensitive and supportive everywhere." — Jazz Now, April 1995.

Article about Tim Ray - Malden Muse

ON FULFILLING ALL 88 POSSIBILITIES
the work of pianist Tim Ray
by Roanna Forman, Malden Muse


When you enter Tim Ray’s home, the first thing you’re struck by, before you plop down into a comfortable seat to talk about his music, his career, and his agitated cat – is what’s in the large adjoining room. It’s a Steinway grand, with a serape draped over it. The Southwestern colors of the blanket are fitting – Ray is originally from Phoenix – and the piano is the type of instrument a player of his caliber merits. An extremely versatile pianist, Ray’s output encompasses country (a fifteen-year gig with singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett gave Ray name identity, even if it didn’t make him a household word); jazz; and new music with his trio Tre Corda that combines scored and improvised music, often in a classical-sounding framework.

He has been playing piano since the age of seven, when he started classical studies. “I didn’t always practice,” he remembers. “I would play by ear; I would improvise.” Serious classical study began in college when a piano teacher at Arizona State University focused him on technique. He went on to study with Fred Hersch at New England Conservatory, whose influence is evident in his clarity and lightness of attack as well as the assurance that you feel more when you watch him play in person. After completing his Masters in the mid-eighties, Ray divided his time between playing and, at one point, teaching at Berklee. During that period, he did some great dates as sideman. He kept the teaching gig until 1997, when he decided to devote himself full-time to music.

And devote himself he did, with a diversity and success that is the envy of many musicians. Having appeared on over 50 recordings, Ray is a seasoned and versatile artist. He has enjoyed frequent tours and the experience of playing big venues, nationally and internationally, including Carnegie Hall, the White House, and essentially every important jazz festival in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Dates with the likes of Gary Burton, Oliver Lake, Scott Hamilton, Harvie Swartz, John Abercrombie, Eddie Daniels, Bucky Pizzarelli, and Duke Robillard have paved the path of an extremely successful career.

Although “musically…never as much fun as a jazz gig,” working with Lyle Lovett was very important - a great experience, Ray feels. It could be argued that besides exposure, it was valuable in developing this pianist’s extraordinary gift as an accompanist, making him the choice of talented local vocalists Mili Bermejo and Donna Byrne, as well as singer/songwriter Jane Siberry and west-coast based jazz and world music vocalist Rhiannon.

With so much experience under his belt, Ray was more than ready to record “Ideas and Opinions,” his first album as bandleader - with Lewis Nash, also from Phoenix, and Rufus Reid. He was in the company of giants, recording a project he had worked years to realize. (Nash, Tommy Flanagan’s drummer, recommended Rufus Reid.) “It was a thrill for me,” he recalls. First, there was the level of musicianship: “it felt like I was just trying to keep up.” Then, there was the responsibility of being a band leader. But most of all, the vibe: “Rufus Reid has a complete Buddha-like aura – he listens intently, is supportive, but critical, too.”

“Ideas and Opinions” takes off with an arrangement to David Clark’s “Flypaper” that nothing can stick to. On the album, Ray tackles everything from a flawless, hard-swinging “Evidence” to the groovin’ original “Grover’s Blue,” and a solo ruminative and melancholy original ballad, “Why?”, written as bombs fell during the Persian Gulf War, and timely once again. The lyricism of the tune almost asks for words, and, sure enough, Lisa Thorson, a Boston-based jazz singer with whom Ray has worked, wrote a lyric for with political content that was performed at a concert. It hasn’t been recorded yet with vocals, Ray says. Compositions by Kenny Wheeler and Bill Evans, two of Ray’s favorite pianists, are also on the album, but with the singular treatment by Ray and his sidemen. Overall, the album sparkles from the players’ chops, synergy, and commitment to each take.

Ray’s lyricism on unaccompanied solos gives the listener a hint to his appeal for a vocalist, although being a consummate accompanist is an art he has worked to acquire over the years. He is masterful at all song types, but really shines on a ballad. Listen to him set up jazz vocalist Donna Byrne on “All the Lonely People,” moving into the middle register of the keyboard and ending on a polychord arpeggio to introduce the right musical and emotional mood. He breathes perfectly with the singer on this rubato rendition, using the full range of the instrument for fills, color, and the right amount of drama. The piano, a highly complex instrument, becomes not merely a complement, but another voice. Again, accompanying Byrne on Jon Hendricks’ vocalise of Monk’s “How I Wish,” Ray sparkles through an intro, bottoms the singer with sensitive support, and develops a solo that, as Bob Blumenthal has written, “demonstrate[s] how Monk’s lessons can be heeded without falling into mimicry.”

Whoever the singer and whatever the form, Ray adds the right accompaniment. That’s been the case with Mili Bermejo, whose eclectic repertoire and warm, rich vocal technique are enjoyed by Boston audiences. Accompanying Bermejo on the CD “Pienso El Sur,” Ray enhanced the restrained romanticism of his backup to “Por la Vuelta” with very subtle Latin accents that made perfect musical sense. The song is an elegant ballad about a couple parting. In “Cambalache,” a black-humor “plus ça change” commentary on the twentieth century by Enrique Discépolo, Ray’s solo is anarchic – his right goes in circles while his left runs up and down the keyboard in the song’s absurdist environment.

The mood of the “Cambalache” solo, and other work from the past, such as Ray’s composition “Pokey’s Favorite Stream/What a Friend We have in Jesse,” on “Ideas and Opinions,” show him moving away from jazz into other genres, and satirical compositions and arrangements. “Pokey’s Favorite Stream,” with a Kurt-Weill-meets-the-Southwest feel, also took aim at Jesse Helms’ support for cuts in arts funding.

Other musical ideas and conceptual frameworks had been fermenting since the late nineties. “I’d had ideas to incorporate a jazz/improvisational and classical approach as a composer and a performer,” Ray recalls. “I was composing, jotting down ideas. Around 2000, I decided on the instrumentation of trumpet and cello.” For trumpet, the choice was Greg Hopkins. Eugene Friesen ultimately became cellist for the group.

The result was Tre Corda, “literally ‘three sounds,’ from the classical piano notation, an instruction to the pianist to release the soft pedal, letting al three strings vibrate freely.” The name symbolizes the artists’ individual and joint search for creative growth beyond “the boundaries and categories that limit musical expression.” Its debut CD, released in 2003, is like nothing else Ray has produced to date. It will take a separate article to discuss Tim Ray’s new sound.

Article about Tim Ray - Medford Citizen

TICKLING THE IVORIES WITH MEDFORD’S PIANO MAN
by Bryn Carlson Citizen Correspondent
Medford Citizen, Feb. 27th, 1997


It’s an heirloom passed from generation to generation. Not a silver pocket watch or a yellowed photo. It’s a memory and a feeling, a sense of wonder and curiosity. It’s music.

The piano came alive when his grandfather played and the family gathered to listen and sing along. His grandfather loved making music.

Medford resident Tim Ray didn’t set out to become a highly respected and in-demand pianist. The piano was just something he was fascinated with and enjoyed. He was drawn by the sound and the songs.

Guided by intuition, the 5-year-old Ray would make his own music on the family’s piano. Sometimes his grandfather showed him things to play. By age 7, Ray’s parents got him started with regular lessons. It was his mom, Ray recalls, “who cracked the whip to get me to practice.”

Although his training began with classical music, he began to branch out into other styles. Learning by ear came fairly easily to him, so it wasn’t long before his repertoire started to include music he heard on the radio and on records.

“From a pretty early age it was apparent that music was what I wanted to do with my life,” says the 35-year-old.

By the time he was in high school, Ray was getting together with friends to jam. Out of this came his first experience as a professional musician. While still in school his band, Portrait, began playing dances, functions and nightclubs in and around his hometown of Phoenix, Ariz.

Since coming to the Boston area Ray has solidified his career as a professional musician. In his role as a sideman and session musician he has worked with a large roster of artists from every facet of the music industry.

From Boston and New York to Austin and Los Angeles, Ray has paid his dues with artists as diverse as rockers Soul Asylum and jazz greats Gary Burton and Jerry Bergonzi to Texas troubador Lyle Lovett.

Seated in his studio on Henry Street, with racks of cassette tapes and CDs and his grand piano, the pony-tailed Ray explains, “music has been the focus of my life. For periods of time I’ve been totally engrossed in it to the exclusion of most everything else. It’s always been more than a job, and it’s always been a major part of how I identify myself.”

Another recent creative development has been the release of his first CD entitled “Ideas & Opinions.” The shy but personable Ray, most often heard as a sideman, steps forward as the band leader and composer to deliver this superb collection of original pieces and tunes by Bill Evans, Kenny Wheeler and Thelonious Monk.

“Ideas & Opinions” on Gunther Schuller’s GM Records label opens the door to Ray’s sophisticated, articulate and sometimes humorous approach to music.

Backed by jazz session heavyweights Lewis Nash on drums and Rufus Reid on bass, Ray displays highly developed harmonic, rhythmic and improvisational skills. Distilled from techniques and influences acquired from more than 30 years of piano playing, the music of Tim Ray provides listeners a fresh and satisfying balance of the emotional, intellectual, traditional and modern sounds of jazz.