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Jazz Remembered


Ray Foxley


Griff Thomas writes: The book They All Played Ragtime was also the title of Ken Colyer's EP with Ray Foxley on piano. I played (banjo) with Ray in the local Saratoga Jazz Band back in the late 1970s.'

Here's an early recording of Ray Foxley playing Deadman Blues with the Original Levee Ramblers at the BBC Jazz Club.



The following was written by Ray himself when he was 19 and is taken from the programme notes for 'Jazz At The Birmingham Town Hall' on Saturday, June 14th, 1947.


Ray Foxley


Ray "began his musical career at the age of 14, when he took his first straight music lessons. Pianoforte rudiments did not hold any great fascination for him, however, and after about 18 months he abandoned with relief this preliminary excursion into the musical world. It was about 2 years later that, attracted by a boogie record, he went out and bought the sheet music of Cow-Cow Boogie, upon which much time and energy was expended. That was the beginning.

Fortunately, his musical evolution was speedier than most, and he soon began to dig the righteous stuff. Graduating through the Fats Waller stage, and fortified by a few months syncopation lessons, (to get that bass) he began to acquire a truer perspective of the real jazz, and an increasing desire to play it. ... His association with various small bands began a long way back, and right from the early days his relentlessly righteous outlook has proved a bone of contention between him and the more commercially-minded of his fellow musicians. But he stuck to his beliefs and almost achieved his ideal band in the Gutbucket Six, a group whose unfortunate disintegration on the brink of success was brought about by the call-up.



Listen to Ray playing Jelly Roll Morton's Frog-I-More Rag.




He is an implicit believer in the Morton principles of melody, variety, and originality in order to achieve the best results. And, above Ray Foxleyall, what counts with him is sincerity.

That is why the Armstrong, Oliver, Morton, Bessie creed is to him the ultimate in jazz, and why he still holds a great admiration for Fats, for those are the musicians to whom true artistry is infinitely more important than technical virtuosity.

His band repertoire of 150 or so pieces is composed almost entirely of New Orleans standards, while his solo repertoire consists mainly of Jelly Roll’s blues and stomps, Joplin rags, and a few of his own compositions, the latter showing that Jelly’s maxim of originality has not fallen on stony ground. His greatest achievement to date? When he played Shreveport Stomp in an otherwise strictly classical competition, and missed first place by only one mark."

Pianist "Professor" Ray Foxley, died aged 73 of Bell's palsy* in 2002. He was best known for his work with the New Orleans-style bands of Ken Colyer in the 1950s - and was one of the sidesmen who formed the Ken Colyer Trust Band after the trumpeter's death in 1988.


(*Robert Greenwood writes: ‘I write concerning your ‘Jazz Remembered’ feature on pianist Ray Foxley, and the statement that “Pianist ‘Professor’ Ray Foxley, died aged 73 of Bell's palsy in 2002.” I realise that you are just repeating an article in The Guardian, but people do not die of Bell’s palsy. It is a distressing but temporary paralysis of the facial nerves and often abates of its own accord within weeks, or, if not, it is amenable to treatment usually with steroids. We take Robert's point and have been unable to find online the actual cause of Ray Foxley's death. If anyone can help, please contact us).


Ray's love of Scott Joplin's music is illustrated here in his version of The Entertainer.




In his obituary in The Guardian, CJB Holme wrote: 'His boundaries were wider. His four Ms, he told me, were Jelly Roll Morton, Charles Mingus, Jerry Mulligan and Thelonious Monk. Born in Birmingham, he founded the Gutbucket Six in 1946, playing local concerts while simultaneously running a trio, and appearing with the Gully Low Stompers. Radio dates followed with his Levee Ramblers, who he took to Paris in 1952, to great acclaim. He then worked in London with Colyer's Crane River Jazz Band, and the bands of Mick Mulligan, Chris Barber and Mike Daniels, returning to Colyer's Jazzmen, and his skiffle group, (later) in the 1950s.'

Here are Ken Colyer's Jazzmen playing Chimes Blues in 1959. The piano is very much in the background until after Mac Duncan's trombone when Ray takes his solo around 5.12 minutes in.




'In 1960, Foxley moved to Bromsgrove, and was to be found gigging extensively in the midlands and the north country into the 1980s with the likes of Ken Ingram, Eddie Matthews's Jump Band, Rod Mason, Henry Gardiner's Southsiders and the Paragon Jazz Band. He was to play again with Colyer in 1986. For the last seven years, he played solo, and was in residency with the One More Time sextet of traditionalists led by trumpeter Max Emmons and clarinettist Tristan York. He was also admired by avant-gardists like sopranoist Lol Coxhill and percussionist Roger Turner.'

Ray has written about some of Ken Colyer's recordings on the Ken Colyer website (click here).


In conclusion, there is this a duet recording of Save It Pretty Mama III with Ray and trumpeter Rod Mason.



Click here
for a selection of Ray Foxley recordings. There are also many Ken Colyer recordings on which Ray plays.


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