Jimmy Raney (1927 - 1995) began his jazz guitar career very early with the history showing he played in the Jerry Wald band in 1944 at age 17. Later that same year he went to Chicago where he worked in local groups and then in 1948 he did a brief stint with Woody Herman. He made some of his earliest recordings with Al Haig (Talk A Little Bop) and with Buddy De Franco (Extrovert) at about that same time in New York, and then joined the Artie Shaw Orchestra in 1949 at the age of 22.
He made a number of recordings with Shaw's orchestra often featured as a soloist. His solo on Fred's Delight from 1949 was an eight bar gem. In 1951 Jimmy Raney joined the Stan Getz Quintet and over the next three years produced, what some feel, his best work. The best examples of the collaboration of Raney and Getz were the live Storyville recordings. These sessions offered the first recorded examples of Jimmy Raney's ability to play chorus after chorus of creative, finely articulated solos.
Jimmy Raney's association with Stan Getz was only one of many associations he had with horn players. Beginning with Buddy De Franco, Raney seemed to like the small ensemble that included a horn. His recordings in this format from 1940, 1950, 1960 and 1970 far outnumber those he made as leader with trio or quartet. Like Barry Galbraith, he seemed able to blend his style, technique and sound into almost any venue, while distinguishing himself as an individual artist and soloist in those same venues.
Over the years, besides Getz, he performed and recorded with Bob Brookmeyer, Urbie Green, Bobby Jasper, Gigi Gyrce, Zoot Sims and Al Cohn just to name a few. And, although his association with Getz attained legendary status, his association with Bob Brookmeyer was equally productive and noteworthy. On the recordings made with Brookmeyer, Raney employed many of the same techniques he used so well on the Getz recordings; voicing his guitar with, or playing in unison with the horn, playing a counter melody behind the horn, providing a solid rhythm for the horn solos and of course, example after example of Raney spinning out his long solo lines.
Facing an alcohol problem and lack of work opportunities in New York, Raney returned to Louisville in early 1967. Between a 1965 Shirley Scott date, and the 1974 Momentum session under his own name, he didn’t make any jazz records. However, four titles from a 1967 concert in Louisville with hometown musicians later appeared as one side of Jimmy Raney Strings and Swings on Muse.
In 1975 he began an association with Xanadu Records and the following year he made his only trip to Japan as part of a Xanadu All-Star package. Interest in Raney increased and his New York and European appearances became more numerous in the 1975-85 decade, but he continued to live in Louisville.
In 1981 he produced a series of recordings for Criss Cross Records: Raney '81, Wisteria, The Master and But Beautiful made in 1992. Unlike most of his earlier work, these recordings have Raney in a trio or quartet setting, each showing that he never lost the facility or technique that distinguished him 40 years earlier in 1952.
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