Tomorrow, Saturday 18th April, would have been the 65th birthday of one of the unsung VERY greats of British music, arranger/composer/ pianist Steve Gray.
“Steve Gray is the finest jazz band arranger of his generation.”
“His modesty hid his extensive contribution to modern music”
John Fordham – (Guardian obituary)
His Requiem for Big Band and Chorus and a Piazzola album are available from Skip Records of Hamburg. His guitar concerto on EMI dedicated to long-time collaborator John Williams is also available. Gray worked extensively in his last years with the NDR Big Band and with Abdullah Ibrahim.
I understand the Royal Academy of Music may have a concert in preparation?????
I will do whatever I can to support any initiative to help get Steve Gray’s music better known. I therefore welcome tributes, memories, and any news of initiatives getting off the ground.So please add comments and news.
SKIP Records always felt very close to the artistry of Steve Gray, you definitely also should check out the beautiful arrangements he wrote and recorded with the NDR Bigband and jazz vocalist Peter Fessler from Germany, a wonderful collection of lifetime ballads (SKP 9069 Peter Fessler – I Concentrate On You) (check http://www.skiprecords.com for samples of the music). We are also working on another album with the NDR Bigband and Steve’s arrangements around the musical world of Louis Armstrong. This will hopefully be released by spring 2010.
As well as his immense musical talents, Steve was always very generous with a genuine interest in younger musicians just starting out. I know I’m not the only one to have been truly touched by his words of encouragement. He once wrote me out some beautiful and typically lush chord voicings for ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’. One day, I’d like to arrange it, as a tribute to a great musician and person.
Lovely guy and an amazing musician. I had the pleasure of working with Steve many times over the years as a member of the BBC Big Band and he very generously gave me a copy of one of his arrangements when I decided to start my own big band a few years ago. I must admit that I always enjoyed listening to his arrangements more than playing the baritone parts…. they were all so damned hard!! I also remember fondly how excited he got one day when he spotted me with a bottle of Irn Bru… he hadn’t tasted it in 20 years as he had been living abroad a lot of the time. Needless to say, I had to let him have the bottle and I will always remember the smile on his face when he tasted it after all those years! A great loss.
Steve was only around 16 years of age when I would go to his house on a Sunday afternoon in Middlesbrough along with Ronnie Asprey alto,Keith Denney and Colin Hutch Bass and we would play,or try to,bebop thingsand such.He was head and shoulders above the rest of us,even Ronnie at that time and would play us passages from a Stan Tracey book that he had. He was the pianist in the very first band I ever put out,mainly with buskers and a few Jimmy Lally's And later when I had bands he did some great arrangements for my 8 pce,sadly now lost somewhere,as you do.He did a great score for a band I had that was just 5 trumpets and rhythm of ” You, youre driving me crazy” in 3/4 4/4 5/4 etc At 18 yrs only. I followed his progress from His Delaney years, thro'Sky etc and still do have a great CD of his original tunes and arrgm'ts along with Ronnie, of Basie type/style performances. Agreat loss,still talked about in the teesside Redcar/Middlesbrough area with great affection of a local “Guy done good” Gene Jarred Trpt.