|Birth name||Ray Keith Irwin|
|Also known as||"The Godfather of Swing"|
|Born||25 October 1961|
|Genres||Jazz, swing, jump blues|
|Occupation(s)||Saxophonist, singer, songwriter and bandleader|
|Instruments||Tenor saxophone, vocals|
Ray Keith Irwin (born 25 October 1961), known professionally as Ray Gelato, is a British jazz, swing and jump blues saxophonist, singer and bandleader. He is known as one of the major forces in the revival of swing music. Gelato has performed in a private capacity for Richard Branson, Paul McCartney and the Queen amongst others.
AllMusic noted that "Gelato has been hugely successful, finding a niche and retaining his dominance in it through hard work, good musicianship and a flair for showmanship". Jools Holland meanwhile opined that "He plays what he means, and means what he plays".
Life and career
Gelato was born in London, England, the son of an American soldier who was stationed in the UK. Through his father's record collection, Gelato heard the music of the swing bands of the 1940s, and the R&B and rock and roll prevalent in the 1950s. Music provided by Louis Jordan and Louis Prima proved inspirational, a love nurtured in his teens when Gelato visited local clubs to hear music played live. His admiration for the playing of Sam Butera led Gelato to commence learning to play the tenor saxophone at the age of 19, and he was sufficiently competent to begin playing semi-professionally the following year. By 1982, Gelato had teamed up with the French guitarist Patrice Serapiglia, and their small band became known as the Chevalier Brothers. Gelato gained his stage name around this time and, following success at a talent show held in London's Camden Palace, they appeared around the UK, and toured Europe and Japan playing their stylised swing revival music. The group played at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and the North Sea Jazz Festival, but by 1988 had disintegrated. Briefly working solo, Gelato then played and sang in the British film Scandal (1989), before forming Ray Gelato and the Giants of Jive. They played at Carnegie Hall, which was filmed in 1992 for Italian television. The group also recorded Gelato Express (1993), although they disbanded the following year.
In 1994, Gelato sang on the soundtrack for the BBC Television drama No Bananas, whilst forming a new outfit, the Ray Gelato Giants. They steered a more traditional course, with a repertoire incorporating the music of Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra. They performed successfully at venues including the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy, the Montreal Jazz Festival, San Sebastian Jazz Festival, and toured both Italy and the United States. Their popularity in Italy saw them appear on Maurizio Costanzo's television programme, and also play at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, and the 100 Club when back in London. In 1998, their music for a worldwide television commercial for Levi's meant a wide exposure for their version of "Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano", which appeared on both the albums The Men from Uncle (1998), and Live in Italy (2000). In addition, Gelato played the saxophone in his cameo role in the film Enigma (2001).
In 2002, they played at Paul McCartney's wedding to Heather Mills. In a busy year they also performed for Queen Elizabeth II at The Ritz Hotel, London, and played at the home of Richard Branson.
Gelato signed a new recording contract in 2004 and released Ray Gelato the same year. He also appeared on This Morning, singing his self-penned number "A Pizza You". Gelato also appeared at the 2004 Proms in the Park concert, alongside The Corrs and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and later performed "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" on BBC One's Strictly Dance Fever. His self-penned number "Givin' Up Givin' Up" was incorporated into the soundtrack for the 2005 film The Perfect Man. In 2006, the band took part in one of their largest UK theatre tours to that point.
The band were the opening act in 2011 for Robbie Williams and his Swing When You're Winning concert at London's Royal Albert Hall, and performed at Bryan Adams' birthday party the same year. In 2015, Gelato released Wonderful, a collection of Italian songs, with Gelato singing mostly in Italian. It received four stars in a review by The Daily Telegraph.
Following George Melly's long-standing residency, Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club's Christmas seasonal slot was occupied in 2015 by Ray Gelato and the Giants. In 2016, Gelato and Claire Martin appeared at the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival, promoting their joint album, We've Got a World That Swings, which was released by Linn Records.
|Year||Title||Record label||Credited to|
|1989||Giants of Jive||Blue Horizon Records||Ray Gelato's Giants of Jive|
|1993||Gelato Espresso||Durium Records||Ray Gelato and the Giants of Jive|
|1997||Gangsters of Swing||Durium Records||Ray Gelato Meets The Good Fellas|
|1998||The Full Flavour||Linn Records||The Ray Gelato Giants|
|1998||The Men From Uncle||Double Scoop Records||The Ray Gelato Giants|
|2000||Live in Italy||Double Scoop Records||The Ray Gelato Giants|
|2001||The Ice Cream Man (compilation)||Double Scoop Records||Ray Gelato|
|2002||Smokin'||Double Scoop Records||The Ray Gelato Giants|
|2003||Gelato All'italiana||Durium Records||Ray Gelato Meets The Good Fellas|
|2004||Ray Gelato||T2 Records||Ray Gelato|
|2006||Hey There||Double Scoop Records||Ray Gelato|
|2008||Ray Gelato Salutes The Great Entertainers||Double Scoop Records||Ray Gelato|
|2011||Hey Boy! Hey Girl!||Double Scoop Records||The Ray Gelato Giants and Kai Hoffman|
|2012||Wonderful||Double Scoop Records||Ray Gelato and the Giants|
|2015||Original Flavours||Double Scoop Records||Ray Gelato and the Giants|
|2016||We've Got a World That Swings||Linn Records||Ray Gelato and Claire Martin|
|2017||The Italian Song Collection||Double Scoop Records||Ray Gelato|
|2019||The Big Sound - Live In London||Double Scoop Records||Ray Gelato and the Giants|
- "Ray Gelato & The Giants, Wonderful – The Lost Italian Songbook, album review". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Ray Gelato – Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Chilton, John (1 May 2004). "Who's Who of British Jazz: 2nd Edition". Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 147. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Pener, Degen (27 June 2009). "The Swing Book". Little, Brown. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Clarke, Sternberg. "Ray Gelato – Swing Jazz To Book or Hire – Sternberg Clarke". Sternbergclarke.co.uk. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Ray Gelato and The Giants Swing and Jump with this great Jazz Entertainer at Hideaway Streatham – HIDEAWAY – London's premier live music and comedy club". Hideawaylive.co.uk. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "History --- Ray Gelato". Raygelato.com. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Stokes, W. Royal (15 March 2005). "Growing Up with Jazz: Twenty-Four Musicians Talk about Their Lives and Careers". Oxford University Press, USA. pp. 53 and 93. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Linn Records – Ray Gelato". Linnrecords.com. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Trevor James Saxophone Artists – Ray Gelato". Tjsaxes.co.uk. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Claire Martin OBE & Ray Gelato: "A Swinging Affair" – The Grand Venue". Thegrandavenue.co.uk. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Ray Gelato – Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Ray Gelato". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Ray Gelato Giants". Discogs. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Hey Boy! Hey Girl!". Amazon.com. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 9 June 2016.