Get to Know Don Echoles Conway, who leads the Ray Abrams Big Band

The jazz impresario keeps the decades-old 18-piece band in perfect harmony

As the leader of the Ray Abrams Big Band, Don Echoles Conway is carrying on a New York City tradition that is more than five decades old. The band, which was started by Hank Dougherty in the 1950s, was soon acquired by Ray Abrams, a Brooklyn-born jazz saxophonist and arranger. Abrams died in 1992, but the band lives on with his name and Conway at its helm.

The band’s repertoire is far and wide, ranging from swinging big-band hits to classic jazz from the likes of Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. Its 18 members represent three different generations, offering not only a present-day Brooklyn cultural spectacle but also a living history book of a culture long gone.

In addition to leading the Ray Abrams Big Band, Conway plays alto saxophone with his ministerial group, The Echoles of Faith. He recently retired from the New York City Department Education after working as a music teacher for 32 years and the Arts Coordinator of Brooklyn’s District 16 for seven years and is dedicated to playing, writing and promoting music for his groups.

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