Ray's first influence came from his father playing records by Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., along with '50s Rock 'n' Roll around the house when Ray was growing up. Later, Ray would go to Rock 'n' Roll and R&B clubs as a teenager. There, he discovered 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.
From 1980 to 1981, Ray played in his first professional band, The Dynamite Band, which was influenced by Bill Haley-style Rock 'n' Roll. That's where Ray learned to play the sax lying on his back!
1982 saw the birth of The Chevalier Brothers with Maurice Chevalier and they 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.
A huge hit in clubs across the UK, touring also in Europe and Japan while featured on numerous TV shows, they also released three albums and several singles, working with such legendary performers as Slim Gaillard. At the band's peak, 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.
He performed cameo roles in a Levi's advert and for Jude Law's movie Enigma.
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. They released their sole album for Linn Records in 1996 "The Full Flavour" (Linn AKD 034).
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 Sir Paul McCartney's wedding, performed for HM the Queen at The Ritz Hotel in London and also played at the home of Sir Richard Branson.
In 2003, 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 Street Pizza Express, Ray finished off the year with an acclaimed three week residency at the legendary Ronnie Scott's club.
At the beginning of 2004, Ray was signed to a worldwide deal to the True Blue label (part of the Telstar Music Group). The self-titled "Ray Gelato" album was described by Music Week magazine as "A well made and brilliantly sung 15 track album". 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.
"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 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 the Ronnie Scott's 45th anniversary concert at The Barbican in London alongside Cedar Walton, Mingus Big Band, Elkie Brooks and Liane Carrol.
2005 saw 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.
Hollywood producer's of the latest Hilary Duff and Heather Locklear movie, ‘The Perfect Man', secured 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 consists 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 saw the band embark of one of their largest UK theatre tours to date. The year ends with a two week headline slot at the world famous Ronnie Scotts.
For further information -
'Year's Best Albums' 2016JazzTimes
'There are few, if any, finer jazz singers than Claire Martin. She's certainly the best the U.K. has produced, with her cunning mix of straight-ahead purity and interpretive legerdemain...There's an impressive bigness to their sound, mirroring the thunderous showmanship of Prima with Keely Smith.'more >>Hi-Fi News
Album Choice: 'the results are irresistible'more >>The Musician
Top Pick: '...a party-bound masterclass...with the UK's king and queen of swing.'more >>Lynn News
'A celebration of the great Swing duets is what we were promised and boy, these two certainly deliver.'more >>Vocal Sound of Jazz
'A superb collection of songs that swing from the outset and impeccably played that is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.'more >>SR
CD of the Month: „We've Got A World That Swings" bietet beste, vergnügliche und zeitlose Entertainermusik, bietet Songs für die Cocktailbar, für ein gutes Essen oder einfach nur so.more >>Jazzwise
'It's an album that strikes all the right notes, played and sung with a real joie de vivre.'more >>InTune International
'One to share for its toe-tapping rhythm and joi-de-vive!'more >>Straits Times
'A swinging charmer that lives up to the promise in the album's title.'more >>Jazz Views
'A superb collection of songs that swing from the outset and impeccably played that is guaranteed to leave you with a smile on your face.'more >>The Jazz Breakfast
'An album which is damned fine fun from beginning to end.'more >>The Observer
'[An] irresistible mixture of swing, jump-and-jive and sheer bonhomie...'more >>The New Listener
„Ist eine grundsolide Platte und für jede Cocktailparty zu empfehlen. Die musikalische Qualität ist durchweg gut..."more >>Soul and Jazz and Funk
'Between them and Ray and Claire they find freshness and vitality in familiar material...'more >>Record Collector
"...infectious, personality-driven hot jazz swing..."more >>AllMusic.com
'One of the best retro-swing releases...'more >>Sheffield Telegraph
Toe-tapping favouritesmore >>Rhythm Magazine
a joyous celebrationmore >>Gramophone
exuberant, happy music...the kind of thing to get the feet tappingmore >>