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Ray Charles performs with Pacific Symphony

April 28, 1988: R&B singer Ray Charles with the Pacific Symphony at the Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa.

Times staff writer Mike Boehm reported in the April 30, 1988, Los Angeles Times:

Sometimes, to make the game more interesting against a lesser opponent, a chess master will take a valuable piece or two off the board and play with a limited arsenal.

Ray Charles, reputed to play a mean game of chess, performs under that sort of limitation when he fronts a symphony orchestra rather than his own musicians, as he did Thursday night in a pops concert with the Pacific Symphony at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. He brought no Raeletts with him, so there was no chance for soul-stirring call-and-response singing. There was no horn-driven band to help Charles stomp through such rough-and-tumble staples of his songbook as “I Got a Woman,” “What’d I Say” and “Unchain My Heart.”

No castles, no queen–no chance for the lightning moves or the unfettered soul-shouting style that Charles virtually invented more than 30 years ago. Just a large army of strings, brass and woodwinds forcing a more measured, circumspect approach.

Few performers could sacrifice such a cornerstone of their greatness, such a swath of their most memorable material, and still come up with a winning show. But Charles did just that, proving along the way that soul can manifest itself in subdued hues as well as splashier, swaggering tones.  …

A different photo by Don Tormey accompanied Boehm’s article in the April 30, 1988, Los Angeles Times.

Boehm’s full article is online: Pop Music Review : Ray Charles on Top of His Game With Symphony.

April 28, 1988: Ray Charles with the Pacific Symphony. Credit: Don Tormey/Los Angeles Times