Ray Kamalay and his Red Hot Peppers

In the early 1930’s America enjoyed a heyday of small band jazz, the likes of which it has not seen since. In ballrooms across North America hot jazz, laced with exciting improvisation, and ballads, blue and melancholy, told stories of joy and tragedy, and provided rhythm for the feet of dancers of the two-step, the Lindy and the Swing… Ray Kamalay and his Red Hot Peppers are reminiscent of this peculiar era. With some of the finest players in the United States, they play this music with all the excitement and sentiment typical of the period. And they have wowed audiences at some of the very finest venues, including Interlochen, Edinburgh and the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Ray Kamalay is the singer, guitarist and leader of the band. A Detroit native, Ray started playing professionally immediately after graduating from the University of Detroit in 1974. Even then he showed an unusual interest in both folk music and jazz. In that same year, while searching for the ancient Celtic muse on the Shetland Islands, he got his first big dose of the music of Django Reinhardt. Since then his interest in both genres has only gotten bigger.

Ray has worked in association with many fine artists, including Joel Mabus, Johnny Frigo, James Dapogny, Betty Joplin, Jethro Burns, and Ralphe and Howard Armstrong. In 1997, Ray’s work with Ralphe and Howard Armstrong was nominated for the W. C. Handy Award. A student of the music, Ray lectures periodically at the college level wih a talk called, “World Slavery- The Haitian Revolution and The Rise of American Music.” His anecdotes are often highlights of the show.

In recent years the band has added one of the most powerful trumpeters in the nation, Walter White.
His playing caps everything this band does with beauty and excitement.
“As trumpet players go, White has it all…Jazz trumpeting doesn’t come much better.” -Toronto Globe & Mail
“…a major league talent..” -Los Angeles Times

That snappy and ebullient bass player is the one and only Paul Keller. Paul studied bass at the University of Michigan. He still teaches at the University and leads the Paul Keller Orchestra and the Paul Keller Ensemble. Paul worked with Diana Krall when she was first nominated for a Grammy in 1997. That association continues to this day.He jokingly says that he is one of the best bass players in the country, but when he comes to the city he has his problems. All kidding aside, he is one of the best in the city, as well.

The pianist, Phil Kelly, is yet another large talent. Phil got his start at the piano at the tender age of 5, and has had much training in classical piano. But his swinging, straight-ahead style of jazz piano is self-taught and betrays a much broader musical sense. He has distinguished himself in performance with the Detroit Symphony and at the Hennessy Jazz Competitions. He has recorded with Thad Jones, Cecil McBea and Don Cherry.


Pete Siers is the “prince of pulse” on drums. A long-time resident of Ann Arbor, Pete is an instructor at the University of Michigan and has a demanding career as a teacher as well as a performer. One of the finest and swingin’est drummers in the Midwest, Pete has worked extensively with Russell Malone and Johnny O’Neal, and is a Columbia recording artist.