Friday, June 3, 2011

Ray Bryant (1931-2011) R.I.P

Ray Bryant died at 80; the news is always as simple as this. But we all know that behind these numbers that sadly reflect the passing of time, years and years of music, joy of pure humanity and deep belief in art is hidden. The ending is always so sad for me, but let's not forget about the "sound" and the "joy" that always has existed, and is here to stay!

with Ike Isaac (b) Specs Wright (d). April 5, 1957. Prestige  
Blues Changes (composed by Bryant) from the album, Ray Bryant Trio  

He was a hard-bopper, in the same category with Sonny Clark, Kenny Drew, Tommy Flanagan, Elmo Hope, Wynton Kelly, or Randy Weston. But he had a delicate touch, like Red Garland and Jimmy Rowles. He was doing magic in small groups (mostly trios - listen to Good Morning Heartache here), and even when he was all alone (dig Alone With The Blues LP!). But also he could accompany the giants in the best way one can imagine. [listen to La Rosita here]

with Charlie Shavers (tp) Coleman Hawkins (ts) Tiny Grimes (g) George Duvivier (b) Osie Johnson (d). April 3, 1959. Prestige.  
La Rosita from Hawk Eyes   

Mr Richard Cook summarizes his long career:
Many premier musicians have come out of Philadelphia and Ray Bryant might head the list. He was the regular piano man at the city’s Blue Note club from 1953, where he accompanied all the visiting giants and later in the 50s he performed a similar role at Prestige, taking the piano seat on such sessions as Worktime (Sonny Rollins) and several in the great sequence of discs which Colman Hawkins recorded there. In 1959, though, he settled in New York, establishing his own trio although he never shied away from playing on his own and – unlike such contemporaries as Red Garland – he has set down a distinctive body of solo work on record. He recorded prolifically for Cadet and Colombia in the 60s (although the latter label wasted his time with pop material) and for Pablo in the 70s but he saved many of his finest hours for an outstanding sequence of records for Emarcy in the late 80s and early 90s, which have been too quickly deleted and are too little appreciated. Outgoing and capacious in his style, with a great feel for gospel currents and a gracious touch with blues, Ray is perhaps only fully appreciated in Japan, where he has always had a large and loyal following. His brother Tommy (1930-82) was a bassist.  
with George Duvivier (b), Grady Tate (d). January 10 or 12, 1976. Pablo 
Good Morning Heartache from Here's Ray Bryant

I don't remember any pianist using this much of two hands, and use it so beautifully. R.I.P Ray!


  1. He played beautifully and he was a beautiful, warm human being. I have many personal memories of Ray, going back to 1959, when we first met.

  2. Chris, aren't you going to write down these memories (and possibly documents that you have of Ray), in a post, on Stomps Off? Love to hear them.