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Avreeayl Ra

Chicago master drummer / percussionist AVREEAYL RA was born in Chicago on May 21st, 1947 and still lives there today. He is a renowned musician always in demand among visiting jazz artists in Chicago. Avreeayl’s father, Arthur “Swinglee” O’Neil, was a tenor saxophonist who was mentor to many young Chicago musicians, including John Gilmore, later the mainstay of Sun Ra’s Arkestra. (Avreeayl reports that John Gilmore had a crush on Avreeayl’s sister and so spent as much time as he could at the family house.) Swinglee O’Neil played in one of Sun Ra’s early Chicago bands, and Sun Ra played in one of Swinglee’s groups as well.

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The venerable “Chicago Tribune” music critic Howard Reich wrote recently, “An indispensable Chicago innovator, Avreeayl Ra shapes the music-making swirling around him with remarkable precision and poise... extraordinarily sensitive percussion.” John Kelman of has described Avreeayl’s playing as “part Tony Williams, part Elvin Jones, and all Avreeayl Ra.” And John Litweiler in “The Chicago Sun-Times”: “He supplies ingenious sound colors and textures.”

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