Ray Brown (pictured left) wrote “Gravy Waltz,” with a lyric by comedian and talk show host Steve Allen. Allen recorded the piece on piano and got extensive airplay with it in the early 1960s. Jazz listeners, however, tend to think of Oscar Peterson’s version as the definitive recording. Peterson recorded it for Verve in 1962 with Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen playing drums—a classic edition of Peterson’s trio.
Dozen of musicians, from Chet Atkins to Maynard Ferguson, Joe Williams and Mel Tormé have recorded “Gravy Waltz.” As far as I know, the Rice University Bassoon Trio never made a recording of it, but they played it at a 2011 recital. Fortunately, someone was present with a video camera. The bassoonists are Billy Short, Tommy Morrison and Michael Matushek. Matushek is the one who stands and improvises a solo. This is likely to be the most unusual of all “Gravy Waltzes.”
Finally, in case that’s not enough gravy for you, here is a duo version of “Gravy Waltz” recorded in Russia in 2005 by pianist Mikhail Valeev and trombonist Eugene Belin.
All I can tell you about that performance and the musicians is that the concert was at Rostov-on-Don, a coastal city in the southeast of Russia—and that I’d like to hear more of Mikhail Valeev, the pianist.