Michael Ray & The Cosmic Krewe
Originally from Trenton, New Jersey, Michael Ray’s three decade professional resume includes early stints with the likes of Patti LaBelle, The Delfonics and the Stylistics. Ray’s affiliation with Sun Ra’s Intergalactic Arkestra began in 1978. He toured and recorded with Sun Ra performing on and producing nearly two dozen albums internationally with the Jazz Hall of Fame keyboardist that led the # 1 Big Band on the planet (Downbeat’s international Critic’s Poll) for more than a dozen years. Sun Ra designated Ray his “Intergalactic Research Tone Scientist,” featuring him on trumpet and vocals. Ray appears on Sun Ra albums on Saturn Records and on CDs released by Evidence, Enja, HatHut, Rounder, Black Saint, Horo, A& M, Philly Jazz and ESP labels. Ray also mixed the critically acclaimed Mayan Temples, Sun Ra’s last studio session (Black Saint/Italy-1992).
Michael Ray is also recognized as a member of the front line for Kool & the Gang, the top selling jazzy R&B group of the 1980’s. Ray danced, sang, played trumpet and assisted with writing and producing seven platinum/gold albums and seven Top 10 hits for the group, winning dozens of awards and a Grammy nomination. Ray continues to perform with this solid group in both the U. S. and overseas.
Ray moved to New Orleans in 1989 where he is now considered a star of both funk and jazz. In addition to concerts, he creates innovative multi-arts collaborations focusing on sound and color that utilize original jazz compositions, neon set installations, dance and poetry. His Neon-Sound Performance concept won a regional arts award in 1993 (National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller and Andy Warhol Foundations).
Michael Ray continues to perform with the Sun Ra Arkestra and has appeared with rock-phenom PHISH, live and on two Elektra recordings (Phish, A Live One & Trey Anastasio’s Surrender to the Air). He recently worked on a PBS soundtrack for producer Delfeayo Marsalis and appears on recordings of Galactic drummer Stanton Moore and avant rockers Iris May Tango. He has made special appearances with many popular groups including Aquarium Rescue Unit, Medeski, Martin & Wood, Widespread Panic, Porno for Pyros, Col. Bruce Hampton and Deep Banana Blackout.
Trumpet player Michael Ray spent approximately 15 years with the Sun Ra Arkestra before he took the leap and established a band of his own, Michael Ray & the Cosmic Krewe. He had previously contributed to the sound of Kool & the Gang. While Sun Ra’s outfit played free jazz, and Kool & the Gang was more of a contemporary funk outfit, Ray and his Cosmic Krewe have learned how to deliver their own type of funk to a jazz audience, as evidenced on the song “Earthrite.” While the number gets the crowd moving in a big way every time during a live show, when Michael Ray & the Cosmic Krewe debuted with an eponymous release in 1994, it was decided that the mix was too much of a gamble. Evidence Music didn’t include “Earthrite” on the release, although the song later found a place on Funk If I Know.
In addition to leading the Cosmic Krewe, Ray still plays trumpet with the Arkestra. Tipping his hat to the late jazz visionary, Ray included a couple of Ra’s numbers, “Yolinda” and “Latin Monkey,” on his Funk If I Know release. Ray also played with Phish on the album Phish: A Live One, as well as on-stage, and he contributed to Surrender to the Air by Trey Anastasio. His other work includes a soundtrack for PBS. Based in New Orleans, Michael Ray & the Cosmic Krewe took home the honor of Best Funk Band in 1999 when the outfit appeared at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Ray actually supervises a pair of ensembles named Cosmic Krewe „ one based in the Crescent City, the other in Burlington, VT, and the surrounding region. Members of both Krewes are represented on the Funk If I Know CD.
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