Ray Reach

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Ray Reach
Branford and Ray.JPG
Reach (right) with Branford Marsalis
Background information
Birth name Raymond Everett Reach, Jr.
Born (1948-08-03) August 3, 1948 (age 69)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Genres Jazz, classical, pop, R & B, gospel, contemporary Christian, country
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Keyboards, guitar, vocals
Years active 1964–present
Associated acts Magic City Jazz Orchestra, SuperJazz Big Band, Night Flight Big Band, Cleveland Eaton and the Alabama All-Stars, W. C. Handy Jazz All-Stars, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame All-Stars
Website www.rayreach.com

Raymond Everett Reach, Jr. (born August 3, 1948) is an American pianist, vocalist, guitarist, composer, arranger, music producer and educator, named by AL.com as one of "30 Alabamians who changed jazz history." (See link to article below.) He serves as Director of Student Jazz Programs for the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, director of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame All-Stars and President and CEO of Ray Reach Music and Magic City Music Productions.[1][2][better source needed] [3][better source needed]

He has performed and recorded in various genres, including pop, R & B, Motown/soul, gospel, rock, classic rock, country (contemporary and traditional), contemporary Christian, classical and jazz music, and perhaps best known for his work in the jazz idiom, combining straight-ahead jazz piano stylings with Sinatra-style vocals.[4] He resides in Birmingham, Alabama.

Early years[edit]

Born in Birmingham, Alabama, Reach is the only child of Erma Elizabeth Hillman (a beautician) and Raymond Everett Reach, Sr. (a coal miner). He began piano lessons at age 6, studying with Giula Williams of E. E. Forbes and Sons Piano Company in Birmingham. Later, he studied piano at the Birmingham Conservatory of Music.[5][better source needed]

He attended Minor High School,[6][better source needed] Birmingham-Southern College, the University of Montevallo and the University of Alabama (UA), among others. At Birmingham-Southern, he studied voice with New York City Opera baritone Andrew Gainey,[7] and studied piano with Sam Howard of the concert piano duo, Hodgens and Howard.[8] At the University of Alabama (1977–1980), he served as graduate assistant to renowned jazz educator Steve Sample, Sr, directing Jazz Ensemble B, and playing piano in and arranging for Jazz Ensemble A. During his time at the University of Alabama (1979), ASCAP presented Reach with the Raymond Hubbell Musical Scholarship, for his contributions to jazz and popular music in America.[citation needed]

Jazz and computer music education[edit]

Ray Reach receiving a resolution from Alabama State Legislature on February 21, 2013. Left to right: Unidentified Alabama State Representative, Reach and Alabama State Representative Barbara Boyd. Photo taken at First Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama.

Reach has been an active jazz educator since the early 1970s. While attending Birmingham-Southern College, he created a series of jazz workshops which were hosted by the music department.[citation needed] He has taught jazz courses and computer music (MIDI) courses and workshops at numerous colleges, including Cedar Valley College in Dallas, Texas[citation needed], Birmingham-Southern College[citation needed], the University of Montevallo[citation needed], the University of Alabama[citation needed], and the University of North Texas.[citation needed] In the late 1970s, Reach was chosen by jazz educator Steve Sample, Sr to be the first ever graduate teaching assistant in the jazz program at the University of Alabama.[citation needed]

From 1998 to 2005, Reach was instructor of jazz and music technology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and director of the UAB Jazz Ensemble.[9][better source needed] . He is currently (2005 to present) Director of Student Jazz Programs for the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame (AJHoF), where he designs and supervises the curriculum and directs the Student All-Star Band. He served as a faculty member of the W. C. Handy Jazz Camp[citation needed], and is a regular featured performer at the W. C. Handy Music Festival and a member of the W. C. Handy Jazz All-Stars.[citation needed]

Notable students[edit]

Left to right: Ray Reach, Carla Stovall, Trey Anastasio, and Lou Marini at a reception following a Carnegie Hall concert, 2004

As a jazz educator, Ray has taught a number of notable musicians, including Peter Wolf (producer) and Chuck Tilley (drummer)[citation needed], a member of the band Sixwire, which won 2nd place on Fox's American Idol spin-off, The Next Great American Band.[citation needed]

Recent alumni of Reach's UAB Jazz Ensemble include Birmingham Gospel pianist Arthur Beard[citation needed], pianist/keyboardist Coleman Woodson[10][better source needed] and drummer Tim George of Just A Few Cats,[11][better source needed] the band which gave American Idol Ruben Studdard his entry into the Birmingham music scene. While Reach was director of the UAB Jazz Ensemble, Studdard often sat in on his rehearsals.[citation needed]

Performing, conducting, composing and arranging[edit]

Left to right: Ellis Marsalis, John Nuckols, Ray Reach, Alys Stephens Center, Birmingham, Alabama, November 4, 2007
Left to right: Lou Marini, Reach, Vermont Youth Orchestra with Trey Anastasio & Ernie Stires, Carnegie Hall concert, 2004
Left to right: Reach, Ken Watters, Jim Ferguson, Bill Goodwin, Tom Wolfe, W.C. Handy Music Festival, Florence, Alabama, 2008
Left to right: Reach, Chuck Leavell, Peter Wolf, BAMA Awards, Birmingham, Alabama, 2008

Reach is a pianist, singer, guitarist, arranger and composer. His skills span numerous musical and stylistic genres, including classical, jazz, R & B, contemporary pop, gospel and country.

Reach is a member of several active performing and recording groups, including the Magic City Jazz Orchestra (of which he is the founding director), the Ray Reach Orchestra, the Night Flight Big Band[12] and Cleveland Eaton and the Alabama Allstars.[13] He leads his own group, Ray Reach and Friends,[14] and is a former member of the SuperJazz Big Band[15] (formerly UAB SuperJazz), which was the first performing musical ensemble connected with the UAB Department of Music[citation needed]. He has performed with and arranged for numerous notable jazz and pop musicians and ensembles, including Clark Terry[citation needed], Dizzy Gillespie[citation needed], Jack Sheldon[citation needed], Mike Williams (lead trumpeter for the Count Basie Orchestra), Leonard Candelaria (classical trumpeter and educator)[citation needed], singer Al Jarreau[citation needed], singer Natalie Cole[citation needed], Lou Marini[citation needed], Ellis Marsalis[citation needed], Cleveland Eaton[citation needed], vibraphonist Gary Burton[citation needed], vibraphonist / drummer Chuck Redd[citation needed], Mundell Lowe[citation needed], Lloyd Wells[citation needed], Bill Goodwin[citation needed] , Danny Gottlieb[citation needed], Lew Soloff[citation needed], Birch Johnson[citation needed], Jonathan Butler[citation needed], Jack Petersen[citation needed], Galen Jeter's Dallas Jazz Orchestra[citation needed], The Auburn Knights Orchestra[citation needed], the Guy Lombardo Orchestra[citation needed], the Lawrence Welk Orchestra[citation needed], Ladies' Night Out,[16] vocalist Kathy Kosins[citation needed], the Temptations Review, featuring Dennis Edwards and Chaka Khan with the Lionel Hampton Orchestra[citation needed].

During his seven years as director of the UAB Jazz Ensemble (1998–2005), Reach wrote a large percentage of the music that the band played, including 147 big band arrangements and numerous others for vocal groups and jazz combos[citation needed]. His catalogue of arrangements and compositions numbers over a thousand pieces, including arrangements for solo jazz piano, jazz duo, trio, quartet, quintet, sextet, septet, octette, nonette and big band, as well as string quartet, choral ensembles and piano plus string quartet[citation needed].

Reach has appeared frequently at numerous music festivals, including the W. C. Handy Music Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the Mobile Jazz Festival, the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival, Birmingham's City Stages festival, and the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival.[citation needed]

Reach has been a singer all his life, and has been an active choral conductor for more than 35 years. His first public performance was at age four, singing a spiritual song at his home church, Minor United Methodist, near Birmingham. His love for choral music began at Dixie Junior High School, where he sang in the choir under Tom Pinion, and later at Minor High School, under John Fowler. He began formal voice lessons at age 15 with Andrew Gainey at Birmingham-Southern College and later entered Birmingham-Southern as a voice major, planning to pursue a career as a professional singer. To this day, Ray refers to his singing, among the many musical skills he possesses, as the "best thing he does musically".[1]

During his college undergraduate years, Ray began his choral directing career at Village Falls United Methodist Church. Following this, he was a paid singer at Fairview United Methodist Church, then later was choir director at Norwood United Methodist Church. Subsequently, he sang at First United Methodist Church of Birmingham[17] (under Sam Owens and later under Hugh Thomas) and was baritone soloist and choir singer at Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham[18] under choirmaster and organist Joseph Schreiber.[19] He also sang with the Birmingham Civic Opera,[20] and, while at Birmingham-Southern, sang lead roles in operas such as The Telephone, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Barber of Seville, and The Marriage of Figaro.

During his seven years at St. Francis Episcopal Church, Reach blended styles of music to create a unique worship music experience. He employed traditional hymns, classical music, praise and worship choruses, contemporary Christian songs, and sacred music by jazz composers such as Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck. Special liturgical music presentations often featured renowned jazz artists, such as Lou Marini, Lew Soloff and Cleveland Eaton.[citation needed]

In 2000, he participated in the premiere performance of a jazz mass called "Requiem for the Millennium", by Gary Hallquist. The piece was commissioned by the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and was given its debut performance on Good Friday at St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans. The piece was performed by a 200-voice choir, accompanied by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and featured a jazz quartet led by saxophonist Lou Marini.

Reach has written arrangements for numerous choral ensembles, including the Dallas Symphony Chorus, the choirs of Shades Mountain Baptist Church[21] in Birmingham, the jazz vocal group Ladies' Night Out and the Hilltop Singers of Birmingham-Southern College. In the gospel and contemporary Christian music world, he has written arrangements for artists such as Jonathan Butler, The Clark Sisters, Anetta Nunn[22] and the group Joylight, the resident ensemble at Community Church in Dallas, Texas. Reach contributed arrangements to Butler's 2007 CD and DVD, which was titled "Gospel Goes Classical", and rose to number 2 on the Billboard Gospel charts, and number 3 on the Classical Crossover charts nationally. The recording, produced by Henry Panion, featured Butler, along with Juanita Bynum, a 100+-voice gospel choir and full symphony orchestra, recorded at the Alys Stephens Center.[citation needed]

For several consecutive years, Reach was commissioned to write arrangements for the annual Induction Gala of the Alabama Stage and Screen Hall of Fame. In this period of time, this hall of fame inducted people such as Truman Capote, Harper Lee, Hugh Martin, Dean Jones, George Lindsey, Fannie Flagg, and Tallulah Bankhead. He has also arranged and music directed productions for Theatre Tuscaloosa, including And the World Goes 'Round and 1776. As a conductor, he has been musical director for numerous Broadway-style shows. For example, at Samford University he was musical director for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (by Andrew Lloyd Webber), Into the Woods (by Stephen Sondheim) and the Southeastern premier of Children of Eden (by Stephen Schwartz).[citation needed]

As a composer, he has written and arranged five Broadway-style musicals for Birmingham Children's Theatre: Rumplestiltskin; The Perfect Prince; The Bravo Bus; Backstage Baby; and Tuxedo Junction.[23][24]

While living in Dallas, Texas (1983–91), Reach wrote and produced commercial jingles and film and video scores, for clients such as United Airlines, Mercedes-Benz, and various radio stations[citation needed].

Music production[edit]

Reach is president of the Birmingham-based music production company, Magic City Music Productions[citation needed]. He learned music production skills by working with and observing the producers he worked for over the years in various studios around the Southeast, including (in Birmingham) Sound of Birmingham,[25] Boutwell Studios,[26] Bates Brothers Recording,[27] Audiostate 55 Recording Studio,[28]Prestige Productions and PolyMusic Recording; in the Muscle Shoals, Alabama area: Quinvy Studios, FAME Studios; and in the Dallas, Texas area: Sound Logic Recording[citation needed], Goodnight Audio[citation needed], Sound Southwest[citation needed], Crystal Clear Sound,[29] T M Communications,[30] Toby Arnold and Associates,[31] Zimmersmith Productions[citation needed], and Dallas Sound Lab[citation needed]. He has been associated with highly skilled producers and engineers, such as Ed Boutwell,[32] Gaston Nichols,[33] Noah White[citation needed], Kenny Wallis[citation needed], Eric Bates,[34] Mark Harrelson[citation needed], Chet Bennett,[35] Phil York,[36] Danny Brown, Blake English[citation needed], James Bevelle[citation needed], John Conner, Jr.[citation needed], Dan Rudin[37] and the late Barry Beckett (of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section)[citation needed].

2008–2010 performances[edit]

In January 2008, Reach performed as guest artist with the Howard Paul Trio[38] at the Jazz Corner[39] on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, a venue he returned to with his own trio on October 3 and 4.[40]

On March 20, 2008, at the invitation of Chuck Leishman, publisher of The Birmingham Weekly,[41] he directed the house band at the 2008 Birmingham Area Music Awards.[42] The band, known collectively as The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame All-Stars, accompanied BAMA Award recipients Chuck Leavell and Peter Wolf.[43] From July 20–26, 2008, he performed at the W. C. Handy Music Festival.[44] On August 21, 2008, he was featured on the "Tapestry" radio show, hosted by Greg Bass on WBHM Radio 90.3 FM in Birmingham, Alabama.[45] On September 27, 2008, The Ray Reach Quartet, featuring saxophonist Gary Wheat, drummer Steve Ramos, Count Basie bassist Cleveland Eaton, with guest, New York trumpeter Lew Soloff, appeared at the Taste of 4th Avenue Jazz Festival in Birmingham, Alabama.[46]

On March 28, 2009, in his role as Director of Student Jazz Programs for the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, Reach was one of the hosts of the Hall of Fame's 7th Annual Student Jazz Band Festival. The guest clinician/performers included pianist Bill Carrothers and saxophonist Eric Marienthal. On March 25–27, 2010, he repeated the role; the guest clinician was drummer T. S. Monk. From July 19 to 25, 2009, he appeared at the W. C. Handy Music Festival in Florence, Alabama.[citation needed]

New legacy recording[edit]

Since 2016, Reach has been working on a new recording, which features over forty name musicians in the rock, R&B and jazz genres. A list of musicians participating on this 3 CD set includes:


Ellis Marsalis (pianist and patriarch of the famous Marsalis family), Victor Atkins (associate professor in the Jazz Studies program at the University of New Orleans and pianist for Delfeayo Marsalis), Robert Redd (pianist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, brother of Chuck Redd), Pat Coil (keyboardist for Michael McDonald and jazz piano professor at the University of North Texas), Johnny O'Neal (New York based pianist, formerly with Art Blakey, Dan Haerle (retired professor of jazz studies at the University of North Texas), Chuck Leavell (keyboardist with the Rolling Stones (since 1982), Eric Clapton, John Mayer and others),


Ed Wise (jazz bass professor at Loyola University in New Orleans), Cleveland Eaton (bassist, 17 years with Count Basie, 10 years with Ramsey Lewis Trio, bassist for Ella Fitzgerald, Ike Cole, Larry Novak and many others), Lynn Seaton (bass professor at the University of North Texas), David Hood (Muscle Shoals "Swamper" studio bassist who has played on hundreds of hit records), Bob Wray (Muscle Shoals studio bassist), Norbert Putnam (Muscle Shoals "Swamper" studio bassist who has played bass for such artists as Roy Orbison, Al Hirt, Henry Mancini, Linda Ronstadt, J. J. Cale, Tony Joe White, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Michael Card, Ian & Sylvia and Bobby Goldsboro and has produced Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Dan Fogelberg, Brewer and Shipley, Donovan, John Hiatt, J. J. Cale, the Flying Burrito Brothers and the New Riders of the Purple Sage), Alison Prestwood (top Nashville studio bassist), Jim Ferguson (top Nashville bassist/vocalist formerly with Crystal Gayle), Vail Johnson (bassist for Keb Mo, Kenny G and Michael Bolton), Nicki Parrott (Australian bassist/vocalist residing in New York City), Will Lee (bassist on the Late Show with David Letterman),


Steve Masakowski (Director of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans), John Tropea (guitarist for Deodata and the Blues Brothers), Howard Paul (CEO of Benedetto Guitars, Inc who has recorded with numerous renowned musicians such as TV and film composer Bob James), Pat Bergeson (renowned guitarist, formerly with the late great Chet Atkins), Chris Standring, Antoine Boyer, Fred Hamilton (retired Professor of Jazz Guitar, University of North Texas),


Chuck Redd – (vibraphonist/drummer from the Washington DC area), Bill Goodwin (drummer/producer for the late Phil Woods), Gregg Field (drummer for Count Basie and Frank Sinatra, 6 time Grammy Award winning producer for Concord Records), Butch Miles (former drummer for Count Basie Orchestra), Jason Marsalis (drummer/vibraphonist, son of Ellis Marsalis), Michael Waldrop (Professor of Percussion, Eastern Washington University),


"Blue" Lou Marini (saxophonist with the Saturday Night Live Band, the Blues Brothers, Blood, Sweat and Tears, James Taylor and Stevie Wonder), Eric Marienthal (saxophonist with Chick Corea and Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band), Andy Snitzer (saxophonist with Paul Simon), Gary Wheat (saxophone instructor at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame), Dave Amaral (Birmingham, Alabama based saxophonist), Scott Silbert (arranger for US Navy Band in Washington, DC), Jeff Coffin (saxophonist with the Dave Matthews Band and Saxophone professor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee),


Howard Levy (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) and Pat Bergeson.


Ken Watters (Summit Records recording artist), Randy Brecker (Grammy Award winning trumpeter and brother of the late great saxophonist Michael Brecker), Vincent DiMartino, Mike Steinel (trumpet and improvisation professor at the University of North Texas), Matt Leder, Dennis Dotson (jazz trumpet specialist, University of Texas Austin),


Delfeayo Marsalis (New Orleans based trombonist, son of Ellis Marsalis), Andy Martin (American musician) (trombonist with Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band), Billy Bargetzi, Nick Vayenas (trombonist with Michael Bublé), Chad Fisher (trombonist with the rising new group, St. Paul and the Broken Bones), Tom Malone (musician) (American jazz musician, arranger and producer, specializes on the trombone, but also plays trumpet, tuba, tenor sax, baritone sax, flutes, piccolo and other instruments, famous for being a member of Blood Sweat and Tears, the Gil Evans Orchestra, The Blues Brothers, Saturday Night Live Band (served as leader of the band from 1981 to 1985), and a member of the CBS Orchestra, the house band for the Late Show with David Letterman), Birch Johnson, Fred Wesley (American jazz and funk trombonist, best known for his work with James Brown in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as Parliament-Funkadelic in the second half of the 1970s, in 2015, Wesley was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame),


Christine Ohlman (vocalist with the Saturday Night Live Band), Annie Sellick (well known Nashville based vocalist, has collaborated on recordings with numerous notable musicians such as jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco), Ingrid Marie Felts (Summitt Records recording artist) and James Clark (singer / songwriter).

Selected Discography[edit]

As leader

  • Especially for You (1994) - with Chris Wendle on bass, Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Sonny Harris on drums, and Gary Neil McLean on saxophone and flute.
  • Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas (2005) - with Sonny Harris on drums, Chris Wendle on bass and Gary Wheat on saxophone.

As vocalist, pianist, arranger and co-producer

As producer


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External links[edit]