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CJO, Sara Morrow unchain the heart of Ray Charles’ music

The Music of Ray Charles,' scheduled for 8 p.m. Jan. 27-28 at the Lincoln Theatre.

In a tribute to one of the pioneers of American soul, the Columbus Jazz Orchestra will leave Columbus with Ray Charles on its mind.

The Columbus Jazz Arts Group presents “Hit the Road, Jack: The Music of Ray Charles,” scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Lincoln Theatre, featuring former musicians of the Ray Charles Orchestra.

Sarah Morrow, a trombonist, is one of the guest musicians for the show. For Morrow, this show means more to her than just paying tribute to the man who discovered her, she said.

Morrow said she is also excited to be able to pay tribute to the original members of the CJO, such as Ray Eubanks.

Morrow has been playing trombone since she was 12 years old, but it was when she was a senior in high school that she first saw the CJO and fell in love with the style of music.

She said she was too afraid to actually perform until her junior year in college. Morrow said she had a fear of performing in front of people and a fear of failure, something she still struggles with from time to time.

Morrow was later featured with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra as a trombonist and caught the attention of Charles. During the show, Morrow said, “Mr. Charles asked, ‘Who was that guy?'”  

The performance with the Dayton Philharmonic served as Morrow’s audition for the Ray Charles Orchestra, she said.

For the next two years, Morrow played in the horn section of the Ray Charles Orchestra. Morrow said her time with him was a great learning experience.

“Any time you are able to hear such a phenomenal artist night after night after night is such a positive and growing experience,” Morrow said.

Morrow said Charles was like a grandfather to her. She most appreciated the time spent in the studio working with the legendary musician.

“We know what an amazing singer he is … but I hadn’t realized what an amazing pianist he was,” Morrow said.

Morrow left the Ray Charles Orchestra to pursue a more free environment to improvise while she played.

“That’s where my heart really was,” Morrow said.

Morrow will not be the only Ray Charles Orchestra alumni paying tribute. Roger Hine, bass player, will also be featured with the CJO.

Although Hine was in the Ray Charles Orchestra years before Morrow, she said he was very supportive of her when she began playing with Charles.

“He was very helpful to me, and kind of giving me pointers of how to get through the experience,” Morrow said.

Jon Lampley, vice president of the Ohio State Jazz Club and a fourth-year in jazz studies, said he is looking forward to seeing Hine and Morrow play, and seeing the orchestra as a whole.

“They’ve got really mature sound based on the fact that they’ve been playing together for a number of years,” Lampley said. “Also, it’s also awesome to hear the members of that band improvise. There are some extremely talented individuals.”

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster for $32-$37 and student tickets are available for $15 at the door only.

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