By likemindblog


Born in Maryland, his father being an army officer meant moving around a lot.  His family planted roots in Florida where he grew up and began his career as a musician, finally landing in New York, where he is still living today.   Ray’s been exposed to music since his early teens, having two brothers who are also fine guitar players. He studied with Jaco Pastorius and has played with many great musicians, including ESP (a trio with Alex Darqui and Rich Franks) and steel drum virtuoso Othello Molineaux. He’s toured with Blood Sweat and Tears, Eddie Harris, Les McCann, and many more. He’s independently released a CD, Galaxy Club, which he describes as “the instrumental saga of an alien mack in a purple suit who visits the Earth in his cosmic BMW to bring harmonic sustenance to a decadent age.”  Hal Leonard Publishing just released his book, Jaco Pastorius Bass Method, based on his studies with Jaco.  Ray is working on yet another solo project which hopefully will see the light of day soon, and touring occasionally with his brother Ronnie. 

Ray, welcome and thank you so much for participating in this project.  Let’s get right to it:

No. 1)  What is music to and for you?  (generally and personally).

Although I prefer to think of music as intangible, the short answer is that music is organized sound.  Inspiration, intuition, feeling, and intellect all can come into play as organizing factors.  This organization can be either carefully thought out, or created extemporaneously, as in the case of jazz improvisation.  The artist acts from his internal motivation, generally inspired by some source (which can be either internal or external), and reaches for a sound vibration or wave that he feels will express that motivation.  This expressed vibration in turn resonates with the listener, sharing that feeling of inspiration with anyone who might be attentive and sympathetic to same.  When the inspiration, motivation, expression, and audience perception work in harmony, that’s when the magic happens.  In a live performance situation, the audience is often the inspiration as well, making the creative process a circular one.  On a personal level, music is frequently a refuge for me, a sanctuary from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

No. 2) What inspires you?RAY B

It can be anything that elicits an emotional response, really.  Inspiration can be spiritual or sensual, positive or negative.  Joy or sorrow, anger or compassion, tranquility or restlessness – any experience can be transformed into art.  I find the beauty of nature to be a very reliable source of inspiration, especially a natural setting that triggers a feeling of intense spirituality.  Seeing the Grand Canyon, for example, was tremendously inspiring to me.  I also find it inspiring when people step outside the box and take action because they believe in something.

No.3)  When you are creating, playing, where does it take you? Where does your mind travel?

Somewhere above New York City.  Seriously, when I’m immersed in a creative project, it’s routine to look up at the clock and discover that hours have just flown by.  I feel like I’m totally absorbed in the process of making music, and no other concerns really enter the picture.  Of course, that’s when the flow is happening, and it’s not always that way.  Sometimes I’m stuck in the mundane world even while I’m attempting to create, but when you find that doorway, there’s nothing like it.  I don’t really feel like I’m travelling anywhere.  When the music takes over, I’m totally in the here and now, which has been seemingly transformed by the music.  In that state, this realm can at times feel very otherworldly, but it’s still here and now.  Of course, some of my friends who have attempted to converse with me while I’m in that state probably have a different take on that.

No. 4)  Do you think music, visual art and health are related and if so, how do you see that?

One of the most inspiring things for me is to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.  I can definitely see a parallel between the work of artists I love like Kandinsky or Picasso and the composers I love like Stravinsky and Bartok.  It’s as if the artist has left a piece of himself on the canvas, and I think composers and performers do the same thing with music.  I often “see” a piece I’ve written in terms of color and texture, or even as a landscape of sorts.  Someone once asked me if I see my instrumental tunes as stories without words, and I thought, no, they’re more like paintings in sound.  I think that artists use light waves, while composers use sound waves.  The fascinating thing about music is that it unfolds in time.  Some of the cinema or video art I’ve seen would be closer to music in that respect, I suppose.

As far as health, there are a couple of areas where I see connections.  It’s RAY PETERSON 3very, very difficult to create or perform in a state of poor health, so I think good health is important in that regard.  Also, you’ve reminded me of an experience I had years ago.  I had a splitting headache one afternoon, and decided to put on Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade . Within minutes, the headache was gone.  So, yes, I think art can influence health and vice versa.  At the end of the day, it’s all about vibrations and waves.  Physicists talk about the equivalency of energy and matter, which really sums up music to me.  It’s just a question of vibrations of one sort influencing other types of vibration and matter, which I think is entirely possible.

No. 5)  When you are playing, not performing, how do you feel?

How I feel can run the gamut, but playing almost always makes me feel at least a little better than I did if I’ve been feeling lousy, or expands on my happiness if I’m feeling good when I pick up the instrument.  For example, if I’m feeling like I’m just not going anywhere or getting anything done, a solid practice session will alleviate that feeling pretty quickly.  Time spent making musical progress always feels rewarding to me.  Composing is a lonely business, to paraphrase John Gielgud in “Arthur”, but when the flow is happening, I feel like I’m communicating with a higher source.  The ideas just seem to come out of nowhere, and there’s nothing more gratifying.  At other times, one stares into the abyss, without the slightest inkling of an idea what note should come next.

No. 6)  When or under what circumstances do you feel you do your best work?

If memory serves, I read in one of John Cage’s books a quote (I believe it was from Schoenberg), stating that music was meant to be played at night, and I agree.  Having said that, practicing first thing in the morning (before breakfast or anything else) is a habit I highly recommend.  Of course, I also tend to be more creative when I’m inspired, or when I have an imminent deadline.  As with so many endeavors, necessity is the mother of invention.  

No. 7)  Do you identify with your music and if so, on what level?

I do in the sense that I can always hear my own personality in there somewhere, to varying degrees, depending on the piece.  At the same time, the tunes often feel like they came from “somewhere else” – another dimension hidden within this 3-D fabric, as it were.  Also,  the influence of artists one listens to  and admires is inevitable.  In a performance, how much I identify with the music is largely a matter of how much I’m able to totally put myself in the moment and commit to the creative flow 100%. Paradoxically, this usually seems to happen more when I’m least concerned about the outcome of my efforts.

No. 8)  Does playing music help you connect with your “Higher Self” whatever that is for you?  (I feel you’ve answered this in part but if you want to add)

Yes, but it can also connect me with my lower self.  Motivation is the key here.  I feel I’m connecting with a somewhat different “self” listening to or playing Bach than I do in the case of, say, Motorhead, if you get my drift.RAY PETERSON C However, I find that sometimes the line between higher and lower is quite blurry.  When life gets a bit too mundane and predictable, a little lower energy can actually be quite empowering, even elevating, when channeled constructively.  Such energies are better expressed creatively than repressed, in my opinion.  They become transformed in the process.

No. 9)  What is jazz to you?

Basically, improvisation.  There are other certain defining characteristics, such as the seventh chord harmonic vocabulary and rhythmic swing, which are generally associated with jazz, but I think it’s safe to say that improvisation is the essential factor defining the music.  Frankly, I have little use for labels like “jazz” myself.  If I like the way something sounds, that’s good enough for me.  I think labels are an invention by media to describe something in a such way that it can be discussed and written about for consumption by a perceived “demographic”.  To then take these artificial labels and construct “rules” around them, forcing the music to adhere to these arbitrary restrictions, is something I find most tedious.  I read in Charlie Parker’s biography that when Bird came out with his stuff, many people at that time were saying that it wasn’t “real jazz” because it didn’t “swing”.  Sound familiar?  In a broad sense, I see jazz as a sort of marriage between African and European traditions. 

No.10)  Many people feel the school systems tend to kill creativity, how do you feel about that?

The educational system kills creativity because the system doesn’t want students to be creative.  It wants to foster the next generation of consumer/workers who will purchase vast quantities of disposable merchandise on credit, which seems to be the basis of the entire system we live under.  Creative people are less inclined to produce or buy some piece of crap, or to accept the politics of fear as a means of control.  They tend to care about things like the environment, which is anathema to our corporate culture.  Any type of thinking that looks past the corporate bottom line is frowned upon.  Being creative goes hand in hand with thinking for oneself, so it goes without saying that the promotion of creativity would serve to undermine the present system.

No. 11)  What would you suggest as a simple solution?

I’ve always felt that the biggest problem with the educational system is that it attempts to push everybody through the same narrow doorway.  I also find it odd that the notion of a “rounded” education persists in an age that clearly favors specialization.  There should be some kind of system of monitoring or testing a student’s aptitudes, talents, and personal goals at an earlier age.  The student should have the option, with counseling from educators and parents, to tailor at least a portion of his or her curriculum to RAY PETERSON 2meet those needs.  I think this would produce happier students who are more productive and successful at a younger age, while greatly reducing the dropout rate.  Why wait until college to begin focusing a student’s education?  Why does a student destined to be an investment banker have to dissect a frog?  Does that kid with the thick horn rim glasses over there who sits on his computer day and night really need to be forced to play volleyball?  (Okay, I’m stereotyping here, but you get the idea).  How about that kid who spends all his free time working under the hood of a car?  Do you think maybe we should gear his education toward auto mechanics, at least to some degree?  People tend to excel at things they like doing.  I like Stanley Kubrick’s quote on this subject: “I think the big mistake in schools is trying to teach children anything, and by using fear as the basic motivation. Fear of getting failing grades, fear of not staying with your class, etc. Interest can produce learning on a scale compared to fear as a nuclear explosion to a firecracker.”  I also think that at least high school education should be more tailored to real-life needs.  I can’t remember ever hearing about managing personal finances in school, for example.  Or how to buy a home.  We enter adulthood completely ignorant of these important issues. As far as the arts, it’s sad that arts programs are always the first to be cut for budgetary reasons.  Parents always complain about the music their kids listen to, never stopping to think that a little music education might help improve the situation.  Kids can’t consider an alternative if they don’t know that one even exists.  Who’s going to present it to them, MTV?  A public with even a moderate musical education wouldn’t tolerate American Idol for one minute, much less turn it into a venerated institution.

Ray, this has been a most interesting and though provoking article and again, I want to thank you for being so generous in sharing your thoughts and talent with us.  Until our paths cRAY - 51UZFrjEINL._SS500_ross again, keep well and be blessed!


Your comments are sincerely appreciated.  You are invited to visit Ray’s link below.  ENJOY!



 Mail this post
Be Sociable, Share!
Filed in: MUSIC • Friday, August 27th, 2010


By Rich Franks on August 28th, 2010 at 9:11 am

Wow! this is so great where do I start? It’s Saturday morning sitting with my coffee listening to Ray’s Galaxy club recording, listen to this composition those chords so beautiful. For all the non musicians out there I hope you understand and can hear what it is you are listening too, this man’s brilliant musical abilities and knowledge of harmony, melody and rhythm are sheer mastery of his craft. I have known Ray for many years and have always been inspired by his creativity, his mastery of any groove or style of music AND I must say that I have been very fortunate to have played drums with him. I will be reading his answers to Michele Andree’s questions many times over and learning from his words so well spoken, thank you Ray, thank you Michele Andree, I am certain Ray’s CD will bring many beautiful paintings for you to share… Rich Franks

By Rich Franks on August 28th, 2010 at 11:22 am

Ray I must add, really nice bass solo at the end of Ocean of Stars. (as always)

Enjoyed listening to “Ocean of Stars” and reading your informative and interesting article. Your ideas and solutions for the educations systems would go along way to solve a lot of unhappiness and problems…
now if someone would just put them in action. Thank you Cecelia
.-= Cecelia Gay´s last blog ..Hearts Path =-.

By Alex Darqui on July 25th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Hello Ray…….Great interview…………
Ray is a most incredible musician……….
Great creative bassist…………………
We have had great times together.
Alex Darqui

Thanks Ray for all the inspiration and insight over the years. You have been a serious musician that contributes so much to the art of sound. Hope to here more from you sir.


Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge


My name is Michele Andree. I am an artist, I paint musicians in action. I think I’m a musician at heart, my instrument being… a brush, so I play…brush and I paint… music.
I love jazz. I call it freedom music. It promotes special values. I love intelligent people and good conversations.

Some people ask me how music relates to art. Personally I find they go hand in hand. Music is what turns me on to painting. It makes me see colours