Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 11:15 a.m.
A formal celebration has been set to honor Jeff Ray, the member of the “Jersey Boys” band at the Paris who was killed Jan. 18 when he was hit by a commuter train near Seattle.
Ray, a highly accomplished and respected guitarist, is to be remembered at a celebration of his life, music and legacy from 2 to 5 p.m. March 23 at Vinyl in the Hard Rock Hotel. This is to be an afternoon of tributes and music performances covering Ray’s jazz roots to the music from “Jersey Boys” to his favorite band, Rush. Those who have committed to appear include a wide scope of artists from Dustree Productions, founded by event organizer and Ray’s close friend Jason Tanzer; “Rock of Ages”; “Dance With Me” (the Frank Sinatra-themed dance show at Wynn-Encore); and Meat Loaf’s backing band at Planet Hollywood.
Also set to perform are Las Vegas artists Cindy Lora-Renard, Michelle Johnson, Vita Corimbi, Joshua Adams, Skye Dee Miles, Penthouse Suite, Elyse Branch (a member of Bella Electric Strings), among others still being finalized. For more information, click to the event’s Facebook page.
The 42-year-old Ray was killed when he was struck by an Amtrak commuter train in the Seattle suburb of Auburn. The well-educated and highly trained musician was in the area to perform with the Las Vegas Top 40 cover band The Jone$ at Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn. Ray and Trina Willardson, who is the manager of the band and also married to Tanzer, walked through an open crossing to a spot where Mount Rainier was visible on the horizon. Willardson is a photographer who takes publicity shots of Las Vegas entertainers. Ray was planning to pose for promotional photos for an upcoming CD.
An Auburn police commander said the Amtrak Cascades train was traveling just under 80 mph while heading southbound from Seattle to Portland, and Ray was unable to move out of the way. A funeral service for Ray has already been conducted.
Ray joined Jimmy McIntosh as the two guitarists in “Jersey Boys.” He was educated in Ohio and moved to Las Vegas after living in Harlem for a time. He performed in major resorts on and off the Strip, including Mandalay Bay, Wynn, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Palazzo, Paris, Excalibur and Stratosphere. He’s played in the bands for Boyz II Men during their limited engagement at Flamingo, “Mamma Mia!” and “Disney’s The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay, “Vegas! The Show” at Saxe Theater in Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, “Dance With Me” at Encore Theater in Wynn and often performed with Miles and her band at Tropicana.
Ray long maintained a relationship with The Onus, a jazz quintet with whom he recorded three CDs, and taught jazz guitar studies at UNLV. In 2003, while still living in Harlem, he recorded a widely acclaimed solo jazz CD titled “The Walkup,” and his colleagues noted his passion for growing as an artist. As McIntosh said the day after Ray died, “Sometimes we tend to stay at a plateau as musicians, but he was the rare guy who was always studying, nonstop."
Tropicana Las Vegas sits on the south-east corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, an intersection which has the most adjacent hotel rooms in the world, also making it one of the most busy. The hotel has 1,658 rooms, three restaurants, a 62,011-square foot casino and a spa.