Raymond Angry – Mister Gold Fingers was a guest at the Made in New York Jazz festival in Montenegro this summer. We had the pleasure to enjoy his virtuous moves on ebony and ivory dance floor. This year, after twenty years of the musical journey, his first album “One” is out on September 7th. In his book of love, he paints the emotions that happen to every soul, capturing the moment, the life. The great thing is that he recorded his material on tape, analog, like in good old times and sounds.
Among his original compositions, Ray decided to put on his album one of Bjork’s songs – “All is full of love”, rearranged by him. He appreciates her so much and dreams of working with her.
We talked with Ray about his musical path, his first album, his work, plans and his experience in Montenegro.
SR: How did it all begin? In your surrounding, in America, you usually start with the gospel, which Is beautiful and musically enriching. You were also into classical music since childhood. Your father named you after Johann Sebastian Bach, that is Raymond Sebastian Angry. When did your fingers turn to gold?
RA: For me, everything began in church. I was singing in a choir and was having a yearning for music, but I didn’t really know what to do with it. My father took me to take piano lessons. I was learning to play the piano and at the same time, I was learning to play by ear, in church. Because sometimes you have to play with feelings. So, I was learning both at the same time. And then, as I got older, I started to study classical music. It is a very important time for me. I was playing a lot of classical music and gospel music. And because of this classical background, at the same time, I was learning to read music, but I was also learning to play by ear, learning to be spontaneous and in the moment, and that’s what you get in church.
You have to play with your feelings. This went on until high school. And then I went to Howard University, Florida. When I was in high school there was a professor who told me that I should go to Howard University. I didn’t even know what was that. It was the only school I applied to for college and I got in. And that’s when everything, sort of, opened up. I got exposed to jazz. I was exposed to jazz in high school too, but it wasn’t like my main thing, my main thing was playing classical piano, I was really focused on that. Then I got more into playing jazz, R’n’B. From being a little kid who was studying classical music, learning to play by ear, when I got to college it was adding on to everything that I love to do, so I started with R’n’B, including gospel. For me, that’s music, it’s a combination of the experiences.
SR: You found your style after all those years in music. And many collaborations were born, with D’Angelo, Esperanza Spalding, Dionne Warwick, Dianne Reeves, Erykah Badu, Patti Labelle, Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Christina Aguilera, Joss Stone, Robbie Williams, Lauryn Hill, John Legend, Queen Latifah, Ayo and many others. And they all love working with you, only words of praise.
RA: Yes. Once I got to college, I was performing with a lot of jazz artists. I met Wynton Marsalis, among others. I was playing a lot of jazz in the college. Then, I graduated from Howard University, I got my Master’s Degree in music. When I was done with school, I moved to NY. And when I got to NY, then the world opened up.
SR: How do you feel when you create, how do you mold your musical picture?
RA: This might sound a little bit weird. I try to listen to my inner voice. When I’m creating music, something just comes to me. And a lot of times you want to question it, not sure if it’s good and so on. Normally, for me, it’s the first idea that always works great. So, that’s what I’m trying to learn now, to trust myself. Whatever the music needs to be, it just comes to me, it’s spontaneous.
SR: You also do a lot of music for movies, commercials. How does that look like, how do you get into that stories, melodies, matching?
RA: Composing for things like that is very specific. Even, still, it’s all feeling. It’s bringing the picture to life. In my mind, music is an oral thing, but it’s also a visual thing. I think it’s important to understand how to convey feeling through, using a script or an episode or scene from a movie and being able to catch the emotion that is on the screen. To me, it’s just like playing on stage, because if you’re working with a singer, you want to support them. Music is supporting everything. My goal is to support as many people as I can through my music.
SR: The main question is your album. Your own project. After working for a lot of other musicians, you took the time to create your own album. How did it all happen?
RA: It is a funny story how it all started. I was hired to do a recording session for Steve Wilson, he’s a great saxophonist. So, I came to the session and I ended up helping out a lot with the recording, the whole process, with the tunes and arrangements. When the recording session was over, one of the executive producers asked me why don’t I have an album. My answer was: I don’t know. He said we’re going to make an album, I said, like, “Okay”. Then time passed. We had another meeting and we set a date. And this was six or seven months before the recording was supposed to happen. Then we got closer and closer to the recording. I was saying: “Oh my God! what am I going to do?”
What I did for inspiration was that I wanted the record to feel like a soundtrack for a movie. For each song, composition, I was watching a movie and I was trying to capture the vibe of whatever I was watching. Like Spike Lee, I was watching “Mo’ better blues”, and so, I made a ballad. As I was arranging this ballad, called “Circle inside you”, I wanted it to feel like the scene from a Spike Lee movie because there’s a trumpet player playing. Same as Ambrose, he’s amazing. The whole record, everything I wanted to feel like: “What does this remind me of?” Every song is the same, but different, another scene, emotion.
SR: What is special and different in that you wanted it to be captured on tape, analog, to play it in one breath?
RA: We did the recording session in three days. And everything was recorded analog, no digital. The whole idea was to record on tape. What that did is that it forced us all to just be in the moment, whatever happened, that’s it. For me, it was just about capturing the vibe. Because I feel like the tape doesn’t lie. So, I think we did a great job of capturing the vibe.
I had great musicians playing with me. Eric Harland – Drums, Derrick Hodge – Bass Ambrose Akinmusire – Trumpet, Myron Walden – Various Horns and my friend Foster, who sang.
I think that “One” is a really great record. Not because of me, but the feelings it brings. It’s out in September. Then we have promotions and traveling. We can come back to Montenegro again, that would be great, with all the lights and show.
SR: You really love Bjork’s music and personality. You were amused and inspired by her songs. One of them is on your album now.
RA: I’m a huge Bjork fan. I arranged her song “All is full of love” because one day I want to work with her. That’s why I arranged this song, I wanted to capture her ear, I hope she hears it and she likes it.
SR: We hope you had a good time in Montenegro. What impression did you get?
RA: It’s a first time for me in Montenegro. I played in Tivat and in Podgorica.
It’s too short. First of all, the sea is so calm, so beautiful. The air, the energy, the food, the people. Amazing. It was a beautiful experience. Very inspiring. And I played with great musicians, Dave Weckl, Richie Goods and others.
SR: What are you working on right now? You work with The Roots. Together, you were nominated at the Grammy awards for the album “Union”. Currently, still working with them. Doing chordings on the road, producing. And enjoying it.
RA: Right now I’m producing music for a lot of people. There’s a new TV show, serial called “A love tale“. I’m working on that with Terry Lee Carrington. Also, I worked for Michael Bloom, I produced some music for his new EP. I’m working with a lot of artists. Lauryn Hill is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Miss Education. More collaborations and music is on the way.