Reviewed by David Lynch, Fri., Dec. 24, 2004
Ray CharlesÔ-Genio: Live in Brazil 1963 (Rhino)
Savvy Ray Charles insisted he get master tapes from all performances. A control freak, Charles who passed last June also realized the value of a full catalog. Thank the Lord he did, lest amazing finds like this Sept. 22, 1963, performance from São Paulo, Brazil, reside in the ether and not in Brother Ray's vault. The first B&W set comes from a Brazilian TV show rehearsal, while the second is that program's live taping, complete with onstage commercials for a new type of Brazilian polyester. Charles, the Raelets, and his taut big band run through 15 numbers in show one, including "Hit the Road Jack," "Don't Set Me Free," and "What'd I Say." This date, one day shy of his 33rd birthday, captures the Genius (Ô-Genio in Portuguese) at his zenith, with autumn-colored ballads, tenor sax duels (Dallas' David "Fathead" Newman blows like a silken hurricane), songs of call-and-response, and one muscular jazz improv featuring Charles on alto sax. The Brazilian film and sound crew did well all around, particularly since they were working in the days of the mono mix. Ray & Co.'s performance on the second show, with many of the same tunes, is equally worthy, yet the same can't be said on how four decades have treated the master tape. But that set is gravy, anyway. Show one is 24-karat gold.