Justin Ray shares first DVD and vocal album at The Altamont Theatre

HELPING HORN: Among Justin Ray's many projects, his most high-profile is arguably playing in Michael Bublé's band. Ray played on nearly every track of 2009’s Crazy Love. Due to recording logistics, he was absent on 2013’s To Be Loved. It remains to be seen whether the Asheville trumpeter will be called upon to contribute to Bublé's latest studio release. Photo courtesy of the artist

Justin Ray has little to no trouble writing music or playing his songs in front of audiences, but when it comes to putting the finished product out in the open for listeners to own, the Asheville-based trumpet player and vocalist admits that his projects have a habit of gathering dust.

“I tend to get really involved in the creative aspect of making music. Then, when it’s done, sometimes it’s hard for me to stay focused on the actual act of sharing it with the world,” Ray says. “One of the reasons I wanted to do this show is because I’m really anxious to get all this music that I’ve made over the course of the past few years out into the world in a more meaningful way than I had up to this point.”

“This show” is code for Ray’s diverse two-set offering Friday, Sept. 18, at The Altamont Theatre. He’s optimistic that the performance will mark a turning point in the timeliness of his output. The evening begins with Ray’s half-hour-long ensemble jazz composition, “Casanova and Cleopatra,” which hasn’t been performed live in nearly three years. The recording of that debut (also on the Altamont stage) will be available on DVD at the Sept. 18 show, a partial fulfillment for Ray’s grant from the N.C. Arts Council that made the piece possible.

Asheville videographer Pete Lutz filmed the Dec. 12, 2012, show with three cameras: one in his hand, another in a colleague’s and one stationary in the back of the theater. Ray and Lutz then edited the footage, including three of Ray’s six non-“Casanova and Cleopatra” songs from that night as well as the main event. In crafting the DVD’s visual tone, Ray was inspired by short one- to two-song clips of his favorite jazz groups from the 1960s (e.g. Art Blakey and Miles Davis) as opposed to a specific concert disc. He says that the final product is in the spontaneous tradition of those classic live performances.

For the piece’s second presentation, local musicians Jacob Rodriguez (saxophones), Zack Page (bass), Jamey Tate (drums) and the Bella Musica String QuartetSarah Hurd (violin), Jennifer Cooke (violin), Joseph Driggars (viola) and Georgia Sinko (cello) — will join Ray. The octet will then return with guitarist Troy Conn for the second set, during which they’ll play songs from Ray’s third album, Evil Man Blues, a collection of jazz standards. It’s Ray’s first foray into vocals.

The trumpet player began singing about five years ago, a pursuit that grew out of his trumpet practice. “I was thinking a lot about the way I breathe, if there was a more efficient and relaxed way of doing that,” he says. “That led me to start practicing various vocal exercises, and then realizing I had an emotional connection to singing that I hadn’t really recognized before.”

All of the instrumental tracks on Evil Man Blues were laid down at Echo Mountain Studios and the vocals were recorded in a Los Angeles studio. The project was complete by mid-2013. For his next effort, Ray says he will most likely work on writing original lyrical songs, which he views as the next step in his evolution as a singer, along with continuing to develop his overall vocal technique.

“Coming at it from a more instrumental viewpoint makes the way I phrase lyrics kind of unique,” he says, noting the joy and benefits he gets from transitioning between singing and playing trumpet. “I think they kind of complement each other. Each of them makes me think about the other in a different way. I do that a lot with songs I’m trying to learn or learn better. I’ll play them on trumpet, then I’ll sing them, and the trumpet will inform the singing, and vice versa. I feel like it’s snowballed into me getting a lot of different perspectives on a piece of music.”

WHO: Justin Ray
WHERE: The Altamont Theatre, thealtamont.com
WHEN: Friday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. $20


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for ashevillemovies.com and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.