Pianist, composer and music director Ray Angry will reimagine the renowned "Sarah Vaughn with Clifford Brown" LP recording with an ensemble of talented musicians and vocalists at the Kennedy Center in Northwest on Oct. 24. (Courtesy of Kennedy Center)

Howard Grad to Fuse Soul and More in Kennedy Center Show

Ray Angry, a Miami native and child prodigy, mastered his craft on the “ivory keys” here in the District, earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in classical and jazz piano under the tutelage of several master musicians at Howard University – then immersed himself in the Washington, D.C. music scene before taking his talent to other venues around the world.

Now, as he continues to break new ground through his skillful, innovative combinations of multiple musical styles including soul, jazz and R&B, Angry returns to his adoptive home for a concert that will reimagine the sound of Sarah Vaughn and Clifford Brown.

The concert, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24 at the Kennedy Center in Northwest, will feature some of the industry’s most-respected jazz musicians and vocalists including Christie Dashiell, Keyon Harrold and Russell Gunn, just to name a few.

Angry, who composes for and often appears with The Roots, has worked with an impressive number of gifted artists including: John Legend, George Benson, Jennifer Hudson, Macy Gray, Chaka Khan, Snoop Dogg, Trey Songz, Jeff Beck, Sting and Erykah Badu. Perhaps that’s why he’s been nicknamed “Mister Goldfinger,” as everything he touches seems to turn to gold.

He spoke with The Washington Informer about his career and the music that continues to dominate his life:

WI: What can the audience expect and why does Sarah Vaughn remain a significant figure in the world of music?

Angry: Sarah Vaughan is important today because so many students of music are still being influenced by her artistry. We aim to bring new life to the music and spirit of Sarah Vaughan. Her influence carries over into all genres of music – even youth in pop music are influenced by Sarah.

You are one of the most sought-after artists in today’s industry. Is there something that makes you different/unique from other producers/directors?

I think what makes me different is I want to bring my musical influences to all styles of music. I would love to be the guy that can create hip-hop, pop, EDM and country records and then in the same breathe create jazz [recordings]. I think that makes me different from everyone else. I’m always expanding my musical palette and searching for ways to become a better producer, composer and businessman.

Your ability to move across musical genres is well documented. Is there one in particular that resonates with you?

Jazz resonates with me the most.  It’s the cradle of American music and its influence spans across genres. I love the freedom and exploration of jazz. It’s American Classical music.

Is it different working and performing outside of the U.S.? How do the audiences receive you and do you have a favorite place?

It’s different working anywhere outside the U.S. There are so many places that I’ve had great experiences performing music. International audiences continue to amaze me at how much they love music from the U.S. I recently performed in Cape Verde with Esperanza Spalding and it was an amazing experience. If I had to pick a favorite place it would have to be Brazil. The music you find there is unbelievable and the influence of African rhythms will blow your mind.

Which place had the most influence on you, Miami or D.C. and why?

Miami is where I got my start at New World School of the Performing Arts. It was my “Fame” experience but for me D.C. is where I found myself. When I studied at Howard University, where I received my degrees in music, my whole life changed. I studied both Classical and Jazz Piano at Howard University and from that experience I’ve been able to work in various styles of music. D.C. was the best thing to ever happen to me.

What’s your best memory in terms of working with the long list of entertainers during your career?

I’ve had so many great experiences but I’ll never forget the time that I was jamming with Sting and The Roots at an event in The Hamptons. We performed his hits and I felt like I was back in the ’80s performing with him. Wow, what a great moment. I love Sting.

Where do you live these days and how old are you?

I’m living in New York City but my heart is in California and Europe. I really want to expand into doing film scores and you must be in L.A. for that and I love the artists in Europe because they bring a fresh insight to music. I can’t seem to remember how old I am. There’s a big blur there. As for family, my parents are deceased but I have three brothers whom I look after.

What’s on the horizon for you? Any there particular projects that you’d like to share with our readers?

I’m excited to be producing an album for a French artist on Universal named Anne Sila. I like to call it making pop music cool again. She’s a jazz singer and classically-trained so there are no limits to what she can do. I’ve created something amazing with Anne and am so excited about the results. She’s going to be huge. I’m also working on my album and it’s going to be breath-taking as well. It’s a great time for me in music and my life.

You were a child prodigy on the piano. Has it always been your desire/dream to be a professional musician?

It has indeed been my desire to be a musician. I remember at 8 years old saying I wanted to me a musician and I still feel the say way today. Only today I want to expand my brand and bring a new change in popular music. I want my music to reach people around the world. My aim is to uplift and inspire humanity through music.

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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