On May 28, Ray Ashley passed away after a long battle with cancer. You can read his obituary and explore some of his music and writing by clicking his name above. I’ll remember him as a good friend, a masterful musician, and an inspirational influence on my own musicianship.
In early 1993, I worked in a record store with a fellow named Jan who played guitar. He invited me over one day to listen to him jam with some new friends, bassist Ray and drummer Joe. I ran into Ray and Joe later that Spring at a Phish show, where I was shocked to learn that Joe worked with my Mom!
Over the next few years Ray and I forged a friendship from our common love of adventurous music. Ray introduced me to God Street Wine and his own creative compositions, while I in turn hooked him up with thE otheR waY and turned him on to my hero, J J Johnson. As was his way, Ray immersed himself in these new discoveries, playing bass with the former and transcribing a dozen songs by the latter.
I had the honor of collaborating with Ray and Joe on a project called the 9-Volt Smoke Detectors, an eerily prescient name as our first and only gig was nearly thwarted by an electrical fire. Ray and I would later play a few gigs as a duo – Ray on Warr Guitar and me on the congas he sold me, which I still play to this day. These were my first public performances since graduating college in 1992, and I credit Ray with rekindling my creative spark.
Ray is gone, but he will be remembered through his music, which bears his personality throughout. Technically proficient yet passionate, structured but open to improvisation, lyrically hopeful with a hint of sly wit. His songs painted pictures of a better world.