Falmouth summer resident Grant M. Langford had the experience of a lifetime this summer, playing tenor saxophone for the world-renowned Ray Charles Orchestra. Mr. Langford, who has lived in Brooklyn, New York, for three years after graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, was asked to join the 17-piece ensemble and accompany Ray Charles on a week-long tour through Canada. "It was a great experience, and meeting Ray Charles was a thrill," Mr. Langford said of his time with the orchestra. Mr. Langford performed at the MBL Club in Woods Hole for several years with his brother George and other musicians. Her is the son of Dr. George M. Langford and Sylvia Langford, longtime summer residents of Quissett Circle. Dr. Langford does biomedical research at MBL. Mr. Langford said his invitation to play with the orchestra came as a surprise. "One of the saxophonists in the orchestra had to miss a week, and another saxophonist recommended me," Mr. Langford said. "In jazz, the way it works a lot of times is that your name gets around or someone who has seen you play recommends you." As the 2003 recipient of the Brooklyn Jazz Consortium Young Lion award, Mr. Langford has created a name for himself in the jazz world. He was recommended to fill in for the Ray Charles Orchestra by fellow musician and friend Craig Bailey. Mr. Langford gladly accepted the invitation to play with Ray Charles, who is known as on of the greatest jazz musicians, despite being blind since the age of seven. Mr. Langford traveled to Buffalo for two days of intense rehearsals before the tour. He rehearsed with only the four other saxophonists in the orchestra on his first day, and on the second day of rehearsals he was introduced to the whole band. After the two days of rehearsals in Buffalo, Mr. Langford hopped on the tour bus for his first show with the Ray Charles Orchestra at the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada. "On the first night, I felt partly excited and partly nervous," Mr. Langford said. "Ray picks his own set-lists for each show, and he arrived later than the rest of us. We didn't know until about 10 minutes before the show what we would have to play." Mr. Langford recalls the second number of the night was especially difficult. "I think Mr. Charles likes to test the Orchestra, especcially when there is a new member," he explained. The second number was unfamiliar to Mr. Langford and featured the saxophone. "Getting through that song was hard. I was basically sight-reading," he said. "After the first night, I really enjoyed myself. I began to feel more comfortable," he said. After the Montreal Jazz Festival, the orchestra traveled to Toronto to perform at the Toronto Jazz Festival, and then went to London, Ontario, for a show. Five women, known as the Raelettes, who perform backround vocals, also accompany the orchestra. "There were a lot of nice stories and nervous moments," said Mr. Langford, whose time with the Orchestra ended after the Canadien leg of the tour. After playing in Ontario, he returned to Brooklyn, while the rest of the band continued on for a week in Atlantic City, New Jersey. "The highlight of my experience was just seeing the way Ray works. He's 73, and he has so much life in him," Mr. Langford said. "He really knows how to give the audience a great performance and how to work the crowd." Mr. Langford said he had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Charles during the tour, and discovered they share the same birthday. "He was very approachable and very nice," he said. Shortly after returning from the tour, Mr. Langford packed his bags and was off to Boulder, Colorado, where he teaches saxophone for the Mile High Jazz Camp and the University of Colorado. This is Mr. Langford's second year at the camp where he teaches a week-long program to teenagers and adults. "Teaching is something I really enjoy doing," he said. He does give some private lessons in Brooklyn, but mostly he performs, he said, adding, "I look forward to my time in Colorado." A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Mr. Langford received his Bachelors degree in Jazz Studies. He played at the MBL Club in Woods Hole for a number of years and said it would be a pleasure to play there again. "Unfortunately I won't have the chance to play in Woods Hole this summer. I have always enjoyed playinmg there, performing for friends and familiar faces." Mr. Langford had performed around the United States, the Caribbean, and Canada. In New York, he has performed at the Showman's Lounge in Harlem, Pumpkins in Brooklyn, and at Medger Evans Colege's Jazzy Friday's Festival. This past May, Mr. Langford performed in the Caribbean with the Sean Thomas Quartet at a festival called Jazz Artists on the Greens. He has also performed with Eric Reed, Ben Dixon, Bradford Leali, the Harlem Renaissance Jazz Orchestra, the Brooklyn Big Band, and the Will Tirrell Quintet. Mr. Langford's next project is performing throughout California with the Kent Glenn Quintet in September.” - Tasha Enseki

— The Falmouth Enterprise


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