Ray (b. Southsea, 1973) started on cornet at age eight influenced by his older brother, also then a cornettist in the royal marines. Ray quickly moved up the ranks on the local brass band scene to take the soprano cornet chair at age eleven. He remained faithful to the band run by first teacher Henry Capper until age 16 by which time he was principal cornet. Having been attracted to Louis Armstrong, Ellington and Glenn Miller, he expressed interest in becoming an all round player, having decided long before to become a pro. He studied classical trumpet at the prestigious Peter Symonds college, Winchester, but became disillusioned with classical music as his next teacher altered his lip position (embouchure).
He could play nowhere near as well as before, so took up piano, where he rapidly progressed. (He got into ‘cocktail piano’ having listened to Liberace – believe it or not!). At Kingston University he made a living on the side as a cocktail pianist, culminating in some dates at ‘Stringfellows’ nightclub, where he literally walked in and asked, as was his custom, ‘do you need a pianist?’ with one of his mates. One thing led to another and he got back into jazz trumpet, starting with a now London sax star Charlotte Glasson (also at Kingston, where Ray used to share classes with Hard Fi’s Richard Archer and Andy Gardener of ‘U SURE DO’ fame (strike). Having left Kingston he practised relentlessly and got into NYJO, and moved on the Holland America line cruise ship ‘MS RYNDAM’.
On moving to Birmingham, he took up the trumpet chair in ‘King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys’ on NYJO leader Bill Ashton’s recommendation. Things were short lived and having toured Europe extensively, playing alongside BB King, Afro Cuban all stars, James Carter, etc, he got fired, (his lead chops weren’t strong enough in the end) and in the process had a bitter dispute with Jim Simpson (in Italy) as well as the others in the band. He had a brief period on the ships again, sailing from his home town of Portsmouth, and decided to give up being a pro. After a year off he was back and started playing with local players at the medicine bar, where he met Sam Pearce (tenor sax) this led to an association that introduced to Venezuelan piano star Edgar Marcias. He was in good hands. He has gigged around Birmingham ever since. on the local scene has worked with all the big names (including Jean Toussiant and Liam Noble) and most notably has been invited to regularly perform with top pianist Tim Amann and the Xtet.