I had been singing all my life, and yet, I had never consciously thought of myself as a singer until I met Ralph Bravo in the late 50´s.
Ralph was playing guitar in the park to a small group of people standing around listening to him. I was thunderstruck by the sound he was getting from that instrument. Ralph was a guitar player - unlike any I had ever heard.
I had always loved the sound of jazz guitar more than any other instrument. I listened to guitar recordings with an analytical and critical ear, I think I hear harmonics more distinctly when played on the guitar than any other instrument. I knew Charlie Christian´s sound after hearing the first note. I knew every note of Grant Green, Tal Farlow, and Barney Kessel solos. I never got enough of Billy Bauer or Johnnie Smith or Django Reinhardt.
From my earliest memories, I had secretly dreamed of making music with a great guitarist. Now, here was Ralph playing chorus after beautiful chorus of Embraceable You with echoes of Charlie Parker played in a way I had never heard before.
Each chorus was different, sometimes very subtly different, and the next chorus would be a huge variation, but still unmistakably Bird´s Embraceable You.
Without thinking I started singing along. As I sang, he played new variations — harmonically and rhythmically never the same — that old tune became an adventure. Ralph looked at me with a huge smile on his face.
Recalling that moment, I think that smile gave me my first permission to think of myself as a singer. I got to spend many hours with that great player, for which I´ll always be grateful.