The Environmental Rhythm Ensemble

The Environmental Rhythm Ensemble

 Hollywood, California, USA

The Environmental Rhythm Ensemble Creates An Eclectic Mixture of Environmental Rhythms from Blues, Jazz, African JuJu Rythms, Rap, Hip-Hop, Be-Bop, R&B & Funk.

Big Black, the legendary Hand Drummer and leader of the Ensemble, can aso be booked as a solo act.



Daniel "Big Black" Ray Inducted Into The Coastal Jazz Association of Savannah Hall of Fame
(posted by The Creative Coast Alliance)

Master musician, percussionist and hand drummer (and actor), Big Black, was born Daniel Ray in Savannah, Georgia in 1934, and grew up as a child in the Carolinas.

Ray got his nickname from an older brother when he showed interest in drumming as a child. Unfortunately, "Big Black" has gotten far more noteriety for his colorful name than for his importance as an exceptional percussionist and one of the better practitioners of Afro-Cuban jazz rhythms in the 1960s.

After high school, Mr. Ray spent five years alternating between Florida and the Bahamas. During these formative (but inventive) years he played with Lord Flea's Calypso band in the Bahamas and with the Calypso Eddy Trio. He worked in Miami with Jack Contanzo, Moe Coffman and the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra.

Ray later formed a band with Jamaican trumpeter Billy Cook in Nassau and began mixing Caribbean and jazz rhythms.

During the 1960s he often worked with "jazz giants" Randy Weston, Freddie Hubbard, Ray Bryant, Johnny Barracuda, Junior Cook, Eric Dolphy and Dizzy Gillespie. He subsequently was dubbed "The king of Congas".

A recording contract with UNI/MCA, led to the release of "Message to our Ancestors," ('67) "Elements of Now," ('68) "Lion Walk," ('68) and "Big Black and the Blues in 1972. These musical statements introduced collaborations with Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston, Hugh Masekela and Freddie Hubbard with Art Blakey on the collectors, essential recording, "Night of the Cookers."

Big Blacks' recording and acting careers soared afterwards, to even greater heights. The next two decades would prove to be truly eventful, on the theatrical level as well, as a musician in international films such as, Dizzy Gillespies' Havana Bop, and When We Were Kings.

He has been in demand at international festivals such as: The Montreal, Monterey, Newport, The Playboy Jazz and Music Festivals, and at the Zaire Music Festival, prior to the Muhammad Ali Fight in 1974 (it was Big Black on congas in Ali's corner that night to open the fight's festivities).

Big Black continues to advance musically. His technique, is considered unorthodox for a drummer, because he prefers to set out and approach the drums as a pianist would approach their instrument, left hand being bass or lower keys and the right hand, treble or the high keys. When Big Black is accompanying a pianist the tonal exchanges, reminds one of listening to mallets being played on the piano strings. His distinctive feel of melody and harmony, is what distinguishes Big Black from all other hand drummers and percussionist.

In consideration of global influence of Big Black and his participation in the many variations and mutations of jazz and African drum influenced music over the past fifty years, he is being recognized for his musical contribution and achievements by being inducted into the Coastal Jazz Association of Savannah Hall of Fame for 2008. Mr. Ray will be performing at the 2008 Savannah Jazz Festival ( with the Coastal Jazz All-Stars.


Black has been in the studio for the past year resulting in three new albums - a rap album, A New Age album and a Blues Album. Check Musicforte or his website for samples

Anybody Got A Hot Meal ? album released 2/1/2010 on ChicCherry label. Title rap song timely comment on the state of the nation as much as "Buddy Can You Spare A Dime " was in the 1930's - done only as Black can do it - from the gut !

Hello Africa , the title tune of his New Age Album was the one he performs in the Sony Classic"SoulPower", which lit up the movie and then YouTube -

His third production is the blues album "People Are Talking" which captures the singing of Big Black - while a legendary hand drummer, Black's vocal talents are not to be dismissed - if you like Delta and Chicago styled blues catch an earful of the title tune
Black now records on the ChicCherry Label

Big Black & The Blues

Elements of Now

Message To Our Ancestors

Lion Walk

If Your're Digging What You Are Doing Keep on Doing What You're Digging...


Ethnic Fusion

Set List

Flexible : Two sets a night of 40 min to 60 min each or we will work with the promoter/owner on set times that are most compatible to his/her/their business.