Ray Greene: Here, There, Everywhere
In February, Ray Greene ’96 was selected as one of two lead vocalists to join Carlos Santana’s group. This follows Greene’s productive two--year run as lead vocalist for Tower of Power that included appearances on their forthcoming album and tours alongside Journey and Steve Miller. He attributes landing the new gig to making virtual connections.
“It’s one of the ways that social media definitely works,” Greene said during a recent visit to his alma mater. “I got a Facebook message from Carlos’s manager about a possible recording project. So I reached out to him and he said, ‘We’re looking to change the energy, so we really want to talk to you about joining the group.’”
Greene’s first tour with Santana began just weeks later at the Dubai Jazz Festival. “It’s been a whirlwind going from Tower of Power, which is a legendary group, to Santana, which is another legendary group,” Greene says. “[Santana] sees music way differently than a lot of people do, which is cool. He’s never settling, he’s always trying different things. As long as you can be on the same wavelength with him, it can be a really cool experience. You get the sense that all he wants to do is play, he just loves playing the guitar.“
Greene came to Berklee as a trombone principal, a talent he was able to showcase with the famed Tower of Power horn section in addition to his vocal duties. “I was always content to just be behind my horn,” he says. “There were so many phenomenal singers when I was at Berklee: Marlon Saunders [’87], B. David Whitworth [’84]—who is now with Earth Wind and Fire—and Charles Pettigrew [’84].” But, being the son of a gospel vocalist and growing up in Americus, Georgia, singing came naturally to Greene.
“I always had the vocal thing in the back of my mind not knowing if I ever really wanted to pursue it because I love the trombone as well. We started a horn band at Berklee, but they already had a trombonist so they asked me to audition as a singer,” Greene says. “To this day I don’t know how they figured I had these aspirations. Once I had the chance to sing in front of an audience, I was hooked. But I never wanted to stop playing the horn. There’s nothing saying that you can’t do both.”
After Berklee, Greene toured with Rick James as a horn player, and since then he has sought to play his horn on every gig. “Getting a chance to play in the horn section with Tower of Power was mind blowing,” he says. “I played on about 27 songs on their new album.” And he’s ready to pick up his horn with Santana. “I always bring my trombone,” he says. “If the call comes, I’m ready. I’ve already had the chance to play on some shows.”
When he’s not on the road with Santana, Greene continues to headline one of the preeminent funk-r&b bands in the Boston area, Innervisions. As well, his links to Berklee remain strong. He performed at the 2014 Encore Gala with Berklee’s Tower of Power ensemble and headlined the 2015 gala with Innervisions in support of the Berklee City Music Program.
Speaking about connections he’s made with other alumni—including Carlos Santana’s wife and drummer Cindy Blackman ’80—Greene says, “You just cannot get away from Berklee: we’re everywhere! Berklee has a wide reach all over the world.”
Curtis Killian is a web content producer for Berklee’s Office of Alumni Affairs. His podcast with Ray Greene can be heard at: soundcloud.com/soundsofberklee.