Late-’90s/Early-’00s Cincinnati Music Favorites Ray's Music Exchange Reunite for an 'Alivexchange' 20th-Anniversary Blowout

Eclectic Jazz/Rock/Fusion/Jam ensemble to play Fretboard Brewing Company in honor of the recording of its live album at Ripley's 20 years ago this month.

At the tail-end of the 20th century, the Cincinnati music scene got a mighty push into the new millennium via a refreshing collective of CCM students and other talented musicians who operated under the name Ray’s Music Exchange (cue up the great Ray Charles scene in the classic 1980 The Blues Brothers movie if you don’t know where the name came from).

The group’s amazing debut album, Alivexchange (recorded live over two August nights in 1998 at Ripley’s, a club near the University of Cincinnati campus), was a remarkable reimagining of Jazz Fusion for a new era of music fans. In the “Jam Band” scene, such Jazz/Rock mixtures were just starting to become popular, and Ray’s found an audience there, but also among open-minded Rock fans curious about Jazz and open-minded Jazz fans who could appreciate the act’s progressive nature and the well-schooled chops of the players. On that debut live offering (which scored the 1999 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Album of the Year), Ray’s Music Exchange sounded like the perfect mix of King Crimson. Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Funkadelic, Weather Report and Frank Zappa, underlined by the musicians’ intuitive skills as composers, arrangers and improvisers.

The band would go on to further expand its sound with elements of everything from Electronic to World music before officially calling it quits, as the members, like other RME alumni, would go on to have impressive careers on their own. But Ray’s has held a special place in the musical hearts of most of the members, and they have found time through the years to get back together for periodic shows, which have always been well-attended by fervent members of the band’s loyal local, regional and national fanbase (through touring, RME developed its reputation not only with fans, but also fellow musicians on the circuit).

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the recording of RME’s debut release, the group is once again reactivating for a special show. The core septet (which includes musicians now living in other parts of the country) is performing this Saturday at Fretboard Brewing Company (5800 Creek Road, Blue Ash,

The Ray’s Music Exchange lineup for the night is Nick Blasky (bass), Matt Hawkins (percussion), Paul Hogan (keyboards), Michael Mavridoglou (trumpet), Joe McLean (guitar), Brad Myers (guitar), Joshua Quinlan (saxophone) and Jason Smart (drums).

Showtime Saturday is 8 p.m. and admission is just $10, but the band was offering a special VIP pass for $40 for those who want a little more. VIPs get access to a private area at the venue (with less-busy bartenders and less-populated restrooms), some beer and food offerings and exclusive Ray’s scwhag — a commemorative t-shirt and pint glass. Click here for more show info.

Mavridoglou says this may be Ray’s Music Exchange’s final get-together, so they’re planning to pull out all the stops for Saturday’s “Ray-Union” show.

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