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Ray Carless (1954-2022). A tribute by Orphy Robinson

Sebastian writes: This tribute to saxophonist Ray Carless by Orphy Robinson has appeared on Orphy’s Facebook page, and is reproduced here with his kind permission.

Ray Carless. Photo from his Twitter profile @clubskaaville

Ray Carless R.I.E.P.

This is a very sad day for all who knew and were friends or worked with or were lucky enough to stand on a stage with Ray Carless!

At 4pm today Ray’s brave fight with this long term illness was finally over and he’s now resting safely with the Ancestors!

In my opinion Ray was one of if not the most important musicians the Uk has ever seen. Ray was and is the catalyst and the inspiration for many of the UK Black musicians that you see or hear on the Uk music scene that he helped to build.

Through his encouragement many of us went on to study, play music, have careers and travel the world. He taught us there was a world outside your street, so don’t be afraid to take that journey!

His passion for celebrating our Caribbean heritage in the Uk was unrivalled, infectious and his detailed in-depth knowledge was respected by all!

He is as important to the Caribbean community and to be celebrated as a Joe Harriott, Harry Beckett, Wilton ‘Bogey’ Gaynair, Shake Keane and the many others who have left such a powerful legacy mark on the musical landscape.

Ray was there at the foundation of the original Jazz Warriors Orchestra, organising, championing and performing in the classic Horn Section line up. It was a real honour to stand on stages with Ray who was always top class and a generous soul. It has been said more times than I can rememebr that without Ray there woud have been no Warriors!

Growing up in Hackney in the 1970s I saw close up I saw first hand how much hard work he put into becoming the great musicians that he was. His career started with his involvement in the thriving london Reggae scene where his Saxophonist dad was also a first call sideman for every and any occasion.

Ray was also a respected presence in the Brit Funk pantheon of bands in the 1970s, were he played in the horn section of most of the Marquee name bands at the time such as Hi-Tension, Incognito, Cymande etc.

It was an honour for us to have Ray playing on the debut single of my band Savanna alongside another important figure the South African Trumpet player Claude Deppa. He had inpired the ‘Savanna’ band when he released his own “Tarantula Walk” single and did promotional work to support it, turning up and performing the single at various night clubs that we frequented.

Ray was behind many music Education workshops in and around North and East London, working hard in the community, organising, promoting gigs, events, volunteer youth work.

We all remember seeing Ray late in the night handing out flyers outside clubs for events such as his iconic Club Skaaville gigs.

Creating opportunities that would give new artists a chance to perform at the many nights that he led.

Over the years he had a steady amount of session work across many genres, recording and gigging, as a go to consistent and classy Saxophonist of note.

In recent years it was fantastic to have Ray join us in the Cleveland Watkiss Great Jamaican Songbook band and the added bonus to record his exquisite tones and feel sound with that unmistakeable Jamaican swing on the album!

Ray was always the perfect gent, honest, dependable and with a reassuring smile. Some of our history departed for the next level today and we are seriously going to miss this gentle giant!

Walk well Ray..

Ray Carless R.I.E.P.

With thanks to Orphy Robinson

LINKS: Ray Carless’s website

Short biography on Summer Soulstice

News given out on BBC by Dotun Adebayo – from [07:30] (H/T Stephen Graham)

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