A Trumpeter Grows In Brooklyn

Justin Ray Returns To Albuquerque For A Weekend Of Gigs

Mel Minter
4 min read
Justin Ray
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Albuquerque trumpeter Justin Ray misses his car. It’s the price he pays for living in Brooklyn, N.Y., a spawning ground for young musicians.

Ray’s committed himself to the Big Apple for the foreseeable future, and he’s learning to love mass transit. But it’s a safe bet you’ll see him driving to his three gigs this weekend in Albuquerque.

Alibi caught up with Ray by phone in Chicago, where he was taping Oprah with Michael Bublé’s band. Ray caught us up on what’s been happening.

We haven’t talked since the release of the official edition of your eponymous CD back in February. How’s it doing?

It’s doing pretty well, actually. It’s selling pretty well on CD Baby, and it’s also available on iTunes and starting to get downloaded, too. So I’m happy with the way things are going.

Does that mean you’re no longer looking for alternative life paths? According to your MySpace blog, you were considering a career as a professional liar.

The trumpet and I go through phases where, over the years, I’ve totally personified the trumpet as this other living thing that either likes me or does not like me on a daily basis. Like, I get up in the morning, and it’s not really me deciding that I like the trumpet. It’s the trumpet deciding that it likes me. But actually, the last few months, we’ve been getting along fabulously.

Does your trumpet have a name?

Well, when it responds poorly, there are probably names you can’t print.

Is there a connection between the wordplay on your blog and your music?

I’ve thought a lot about that recently. I’m always looking for different types of creative inspiration or creative outlet. … Sometimes you need a different way of approaching the creative process, and so sometimes I’ll just sit down and write. … I think I’ve found that’s a good way for me to stay creative outside of music.

Judging from the all-female response to your blog, it’s a great way to expand your circle of women friends, too.

It’s all designed for that, actually. Forget all that bullshit about creativity.

So what have you been doing musically in New York?

Trying to break into that scene more, which means doing a lot of different kinds of things. I’ve been playing some big bands in the Village and playing a lot of jam sessions. … In New York, there’s an opportunity to play all different kinds of things. I really want to take advantage of that.

Where have you been playing?

I’ve been doing a big band at this place called the Garage, sitting in at Smalls and a place called La Lanterna, a real tiny jazz club kind of around the corner from the Blue Note.

What have you been working on of your own?

I’ve been thinking about doing a new CD, and I’ve got arrangements of pop tunes—like “Just the Two of Us,” the Bill Withers thing; and “Message in a Bottle”—things that struck me as lending themselves to jazz treatments.

What’s the agenda for the Albuquerque gigs?

For all three gigs, I’m going to have a friend of mine from Los Angeles who’s a drummer, named Jamey Tate. He was a student of Peter Erskine’s and has since found a niche professionally with the smooth jazz circuit. He’s really an Elvin Jones-influenced jazz drummer.

At Zinc and Scalo, it will be Stu MacAskie playing piano and Michael Glynn will be playing bass. At Seasons, John Rangel will be playing piano. [Bassist to be announced.]

I’m going to try to do some of the pop tune arrangements I’ve been working on, and some things from the CD that’s out now.

Justin Ray will appear at Zinc Wine Bar, Thursday, May 31, 9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.; at Scalo, Friday, June 1, 8:30 p.m.-midnight; and at Seasons, Saturday, June 2, 7-10 p.m. No cover charge.

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