Carline Ray, one of the great jazz pioneers, an activist in women's rights, a performer and educator, and an active member of Saint Peter's Church, died at Isabella House in Manhattan on July 18, 2013.Carline Ray, one of the great jazz pioneers, an activist in women's rights, a performer and educator, and an active member of Saint Peter's Church, died at Isabella House in Manhattan on July 18, 2013. She was 88 years old. Carline is survived by her daughter, Catherine Russell, also a great musician, her sister Irma Sloan, and nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Carline Ray was born 21 April 1925, New York City, New York, USA. Ray entered the Juilliard School of Music when she was 16 and studied composition. There, she also first played jazz, joining Edna Smith, a fellow student and bass player, gradually becoming adept on this instrument. Ray joined Erskine Hawkins And His Orchestra in 1948 as a singer but also played guitar rather than simply sitting idle between vocal numbers. She continued to study, gaining a master's degree in voice in 1956. Throughout the next two decades Ray worked constantly, singing and playing all the instruments upon which she was proficient, in a wide variety of musical settings. In 1981 she was awarded a grant to study the acoustic bass under renowned jazzman Major Holley. Some of her performing credits as bassist include working with Sy Oliver Orchestra, Duke Ellington Orchestra directed by Mercer Ellington, pianist/composer Mary Lou Williams, trombonist-composer Melba Liston, and singer Ruth Brown.
In 2005, Carline was the recipient of the Kennedy Center's Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Festival Award, and in 2008, she received an IWJ (International Women In Jazz) Award. Carline is also featured in the documentary film 'The Girls in the Band,' directed by Judy Chaikin and in 2013 she released her debut recording produced by her daughter Catherine Russell, Carline Ray "Vocal Sides."