Ray’s an evolving blend of music | SteamboatToday.com

Ray’s an evolving blend of music

Kelly Silva

— After watching the movie “Blues Brothers” about five years ago, a group of guys at the University of Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music decided the name for Ray Charles’ music store would make a good name for a blues band.

Although the name, Ray’s Music Exchange, has stuck with the guys, the nature of the music has matured and evolved into more of a 21st century jazz and funk band that implements world beats and improvisation.

“I think more than composition vs. songwriting; we’re improvisers,” said guitarist Brad Myers.

Although about one-half of the band writes music, Myers said they’re trying to concentrate more on synergy.

Ray’s Music Exchange is on a two-week tour, spending most of their time in Colorado, and will play Saturday at The Wolf Den Tavern.

Although friend and saxophonist Andrew Neff isn’t a technical member of the band, his guest appearances on stage and the CD have given a boost to Ray’s diverse sound.

“He’s a good friend of ours and an amazing musician. We try to have him as much as we can,” Myers said.

Although Myers has learned to play the mandolin and Joe McLean the dobro, Myers said they will not bring these instruments to Steamboat Springs. McLean also plays guitar and Michael Mavridoglou is on trumpet, keyboards and percussion, Eli Hludzik is on drums and percussion and Nick Blasky is on bass.

It wasn’t difficult for the Cincinnati quintet to meet their lives revolved around music. But staying together with the original lineup posed more problems for a band whose focus was recruiting the best of the best.

“Every time we make a change, it raises the bar,” Myers said.

They’re hanging around Cincinnati with no specific plans as to where they will base the band in the future but are waiting for one more band member to finish up college.

“The Midwest in general is tough for music, but we’re just trying to build a solid base,” Myers said.

Although Cincinnati is centrally located for gigs in the United States, Myers said he knows the West, South and East offer a good music scene.

Myers said only one member of the current band was in the original lineup, but with each new member or special guest, the sound becomes more fluid and clear.

Ray’s Music Exchange doesn’t have a lick for lyrics (about 85 percent of music is instrumental), because their focus is producing eclectic guitar riffs and an entourage of percussion that leaves an audience wishing they were on some white sandy beach with a cocktail.

They have no particular musical influences because the members of Ray’s believes a community of passionate musicians creates a good musician in any bunch if they’re willing to put a little heart and soul into it.

The band released its second album but first studio album, “Turanga,” in September after “Alivexchange” was well received by fans.

Myers said Belvan Records has helped Ray’s spread the word and all are proud to have such an attractive compilation of music.

“It’s got a wide range of stuff and represents every different kind of thing,” Myers said. “There’s a good amount of studio gluttony.”

Myers said everyone adds something special to the band that makes Ray’s unique. One person may have an act for avant-garde jazz another for roots music or maybe blues.

“Those are all the things we have when we get together to play music this is what comes out,” Myers said of “Turanga.”

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