Ray Charles Ray Charles At The Olympia

Though the success of the Oscar-winning biopic chronicling the tumultuous early half of Ray Charles’s life no doubt won him scores of new fans the world over the truth is that to the man affectionately known as "genius” that world was already his own personal stage right up to his passing at 74. The recently released concert recording of his show at Paris’s famous Olympia in 2000 — Ray’s return to the venue after 40 years — gives you a feel for where his charms truly lay, as Charles’s swing and personality shine through even as his age restricts. With the majority of his traditionally orchestral big band stranded at the airport in Lisbon, the singer turns a near-cancellation into a rare, intimate glimpse into his genial musicality. Backed only by an unassuming trio of prime players on guitar, bass and drums, Charles leads the way through an improvised set-list of diverse material that includes Oscar Peterson’s "Blues For Big Scotia” and Leon Russell’s indelibly beautiful "Song For You,” amongst his own inspired classics. Ray’s keyboard mastery grabs centre stage on cuts like the bluesy "Stranger In My Own Home Town,” while other moments find him drawing out smooth vibraphone tones. By the time he calls on the audience to replace the absent Raylettes on show closer "What’d I Say,” there’s little question that history was witnessed that day. (XIII Bis)