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RIFFS / Saxophonist David Sanborn on 'Drown In My Own Tears' by Ray Charles

WHAT'S always been great about Ray Charles is the way he combines jazz, gospel and R&B, the three great forms of music, in one. On this great recording of 'Drown In My Own Tears' you can hear he's a little close to the mike, so you get that immediacy, on top of the electricity in the atmosphere. It's a great moment. He always does this song slow anyway, but then, in 1958, he used to do it r-e-a-l slow. You could have lunch between the one and two (beats). Playing slowly and maintaining the interest of the audience is one of the hardest things for a musician to do. Miles Davis, for example, had that gift. I've never heard anyone lay a tune this slowly, it's a 6/8 beat, it's a three against four thing, which means it goes 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, but slowing down means you risk losing momentum. Ray Charles, though, has so much control in his voice that he can leave a note hanging and you'll always be there with him. In the background you've got David 'Fathead' Newman on alto and tenor sax, plus two trumpets, trombone, a few more sax, three backing singers and a bass guitar. There's a mini big band going on, just playing sustained notes, but what you really hear is just acoustic piano and voice, like you'd get in a gospel church. His voice has a very plaintive, crying quality, it almost sounds like he's breaking down. He's drowning in tears. It's a song about loss and regret and hope, and that's what music's all about, communicating those things.

'Drown In My Own Tears' is on 'The Right Time' (Atlantic CD241119-2)

(Photograph omitted)