Ray's father was probably his first musical influence. A US airman, living in London, Ray's dad had brought over a huge collection of great records. Young Gelato remembers hearing Sammy Davis, Dean Martin, Bill Haley, and many more, being played around the home, while he was growing up. This Love of music developed further when Ray was a teenager. Most nights, Ray could be found at Londons best Rock n Roll clubs, R n B venues and live gigs. Discovering the sounds of Louis Jordan and Louis Prima, among many other legendary entertainers, who would later be huge influences on Ray's music. In 1979, Ray took up tenor sax. Studying hard at night school and with private tutors, he developed a life-long love of jazz tenor sax playing. He was introduced to such sax greats as, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet, Ben Webster, etc. These masters became big influences on Gelato's sax playing. Around this time, Ray would ask to sit in with any live band that would let him! It was here that he realised that music was to be his life.
1982 saw the birth of The Chevalier Brothers with Maurice Chevalier, and remained Ray's band until 1988. After winning a talent contest at London's Camden Palace (the first time Ray was featured as lead vocalist), the band became the "darlings of the London club scene." With the help of Ray's long-time buddy and bass player, who became known as Clark Kent, The Chevalier Brothers pioneered a revival of interest in the swinging music of the '40s and '50s. They were a huge hit in clubs across the U.K., toured Europe and Japan, and were featured on numerous TV shows. They also released three albums and several singles, and had the opportunity to work with such legendary performers as Slim Gaillard. At the band's peek, they were playing around 200 gigs a year! The musicians included: Ray Gelato (tenor sax, vocal), Maurice Chevalier (guitar), Clark Kent (bass), John Piper (drums) and Roger Beaujolais (vibes).
In 1988, Ray appeared playing and singing in the hit British film, Scandal. That same year, he formed Ray Gelato and the Giants of Jive. This bigger, seven-piece band was the prototype of the winning formula Ray uses today. Their extensive list of gigs included shows at Carnegie Hall, the Nice Jazz Festival, the Lugano Jazz Festival and many tours throughout the U.K. and Europe. The group also recorded three CDs before disbanding in 1994.
In 1994, Ray found more film work, performing on the soundtrack for the BBC drama, No Bananas. That same year, he formed The Ray Gelato Giants, with whom he still performs today. This highly successful combination has played to critical acclaim wherever they have appeared, including the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy (four times), the Montreal Jazz Festival, San Sebastian Jazz Festival (Spain), and concerts in New York City, Philadelphia, Tampa, Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. The band has also enjoyed numerous Italian tours and television appearances, including a spot on the Mauritzio Costanzo show. Closer to home, Ray and the boys have played Ronnie Scotts to rave reviews (see reviews), Pizza on the Park, and consistently packed the house at The 100 Club in London.
Ray gained many international fans in 1998 when he was featured in a commercial for Levis Dockers, distributed worldwide, performing the classic Renato Carosone song, "Tu Vuo' Fa L'Americano". The song is included on the band's studio album, The Men from Uncle, and their Live in Italy CD.
In 2000, Ray found the time to make another celluloid cameo with his appearance in the Jude Law film, Enig ma , playing the sax - naturally! 2001 saw an award-winning feature article on Ray appear in ATOMIC Magazine and later that year The Ray Gelato Giants opened for Robbie Williams ' "Swing When You're Winning" concert at The Royal Albert Hall in London, before an appearance at Bryan Adams ' birthday party - at the singer's personal request. In 2002, The Ray Gelato Giants put on a fantastic show to a star-studded audience at Paul McCartney 's wedding, performed for HM the Queen at The Ritz Hotel in London, and also played at the home of music biz boss Richard Branson . 2003 was the best yet for Ray and his Giants as they played a 10 day residency at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy and continuing to build a very healthy fanbase in the US. Alongside the regular shows at the 100 Club and Dean St Pizza Express, Ray finished off the year with an acclaimed three week residency at the legendary Ronnie Scotts club.
2004 has been one of the biggest years for the band to date. At the beginning of the year Ray was signed to a worldwide deal to the True Blue label (part of the Telstar Music Group). He signed a multi album major record company deal and released the acclaimed ‘Ray Gelato' album described by Music Week Magazine as “A well made and brilliantly sung 15 track album” . Since then Ray has been busier than ever. At the beginning of the year Ray performed his self penned track “A Pizza You” on ITV's This Morning . Due to overwhelming viewer demands the producer's asked the band back to perform the live favourite “Just a Gigolo” on the show for an unprecedented second time in two weeks. Other national TV appearances included performances on Top of the Pops 2 , the Terry & Gaby Show , BBC News and Good Food Live where Ray demonstrated his talents as a chef.
Summer 2004 saw Ray and his powerful 7 piece band touring around the UK and Europe playing at all the major festivals in Spain, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and a ground breaking 7th successful 10 day residency at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Italy. The Times commented, “On the big stages of the summer's outdoor festival circuit, the boundless energy of Ray Gelato makes the band one of the most popular in Europe” The Times.
Back in the UK, Ray and the band continued to expand their ever-growing fanbase. He was asked to perform at the 2004 BBC Proms in the Park in front of an excited audience of 40,000 in Hyde Park, London alongside The Corrs and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. What followed was a sold out weeklong residency at Pizza Express in Dean St London. The critics loved it: “...arguably the only British jazz group with a proper stage show.” commented Jack Massarik of the The London Evening Standard and “…he invests his singing and sax playing with buckets of emotion…” noted David Cheal of the Daily Telegraph .
The rest of the 2004 has seen Ray and the guys continue to wow and win over audiences with shows around the UK and a United States East Coast tour. In October Ray performed at Ronnie Scott's Club's 45 th anniversary concert at The Barbican in London alongside Cedar Walton , Mingus Big Band , Elkie Brooks and Liane Carol . December 13 th 2004 will be the first show of a 3-week residency at the legendary jazz venue Ronnie Scott's Club in London's Soho.
2005 has seen Ray and the bands live activity continue to go from strength to strength. They headlined the first night of the Dubai International Jazz Festival with a bill that included Claire Martin , the Peter King Quartet and Jazz Matrix featuring Jim Mullen . In March and April a UK tour of regional theatres culminated in a packed out show at The Bloomsbury Theatre in London.
In March news came through that Ray had been nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Jazz Artist of the Year . Clare Teal and Jamie Cullum joined him in the same category. The nomination was decided by Radio 2 producers and was given to artists that had done most to further the cause of popular jazz making on both Radio 2 and the wider jazz stage.
Ray's TV appearances continued at the end of April when he appeared on the hit BBC 1 show ‘Strictly Dance Fever' where he performed “It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing'.
Backed by a 35 piece orchestra Ray performed alongside amongst others Katie Melua and Will Young at the BBC's VE Day Concert in Trafalgar Square in May.
The film and advertising cinema community have always liked Ray's music which is why they have in the past used his tracks for a Levi's advert and in the Jude Law movie Enigma. Hollywood is no exception with the producer's of the latest Hilary Duff and Heather Locklear movie, ‘The Perfect Man', securing the rights to Ray's self penned song ‘Givin' Up Givin' Up. The movie went on worldwide release at the end of July 2005.
At the 2006 BBC Jazz Awards Ray was nominated for a second year in a row. This time in the category of ‘Best of Jazz’. The nomination came at the release of his new album 'Hey There' - The 15 track album concists of all time classics like ‘That’s Amore’ and ‘You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You’ mixed with dancefloor classics like ‘Mambo Italiano’ and the stomping ‘Mutton Leg’.
Ray’s distinctive vocal style is exemplified in the Cole Porter standard ‘Just One of Those Things’ while his world class sax playing is brought right to the fore with his soul wrenching version of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Angel Eyes’. Made famous by Sammy Davis Jr, ‘Birth of the Blues’, has become a must see live classic and is performed brilliantly by Ray’s awesome 7 piece ‘Giants Orchestra’.
2006 was a very busy year! Ray and the fellas toured Brazil for the first time. The band made their 7th appearance at Umbria Jazz, and also embarked on a highly sucessful UK theatre tour. The year ended with a sold out Xmas run at Ronnie Scotts. This season had rave reviews in the Times and London Evening standard.
* Winner ' Best band' Ronnie Scotts Jazz Awards.
* Featured In BBC4 TV special about the life of Louis Prima.
* Original song Mambo Gelato featured in the Movie ' No Reservations', staring Catherine Zeeta Jones.
* Nominated for the third time for BBC Radio 2 ' Heart of Jazz Award'.
* Ray was the Featured artist on Jools Holland's Radio 2 show.
* Recorded new album: Ray Gelato Salutes the Great Entertainers.
* Ray is featured with the Turin Symphony Orchestra . The event is a special Frank Sinatra birthday tribute.
Ray is embarking on a 20 date UK tour to promote his new CD release ' Great Entertainers', and his cookbook, ' Cookin with Ray'.