|When I first came across Ray Foxley, in Birmingham in the early 1970's, he was playing Horace Silver and Theloneous Monk compositions with a quintet that included Dutch Lewis on reeds, Ron Hills on trombone and Roy Dutton on drums. It was a post-bop-style band, and that was what I assumed Ray always played. I was astonished to find that his background was in the post-war "revivalist" scene and, in the late 1950's, with the legendary New Orleans-style trumpeter Ken Colyer's band.
In the mid-seventies in Birmingham (UK) I was playing in a swing/mainstream/Condon-style band, and we needed a pianist. I suggested giving Ray a call, and to my surprise he agreed to help us out, which was a wonderful experience. I remember he commented something like, "I've played New Orleans style with Colyer and Horace Silver style with my own band, but never anything in between, until now". It was a typically modest and self-effacing comment from someone, who to the rest of us in the band, seemed like a vastly more experienced and accomplished musician.
I played with Ray occasionally over the years that followed, notably at the Bude Jazz Festival (with trumpeter Tony Davis) in the early 1990's. ray was always a joy to work with and great fun to be around. I last saw and heard him shortly before his death, when I happened to visit the Ealing Jazz Festival in London, and Ray was playing solo piano in the beer tent. He was still playing Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin and other ragtime and early jazz material very well. I went up and introduced myself and he clearly didn't remember me. But Ray was always very polite, and he pretended that he knew exactly who I was (the situation was helped by the presence of band leader Steve Laine, an old friend of Ray's from the early revivalist days).
That was the last time I saw him. I read that he'd died a few months later. One more old friend and early influence gone. One less friend and fellow-jazzer to meet up with and laugh with. One less piano player on a list that is becoming all too short.