Ray Bryant – Live In Paris – 1974 – Past Daily Downbeat
Ray Bryant – Live at Studio 104 – Maison de la Radio – Radio France – February 23, 1974 – Radio France Musique
Ray Bryant this week. In a radio broadcast concert given in Paris by Radio France on February 23, 1974. Although not mentioned in the same breath as some of his contemporaries, Bryant enjoyed a solid reputation as a reliable and sought-after collaborator and accompanist.
Bryant was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 24, 1931. His mother was an ordained minister who had taught herself to play the piano; his father also played the piano and sang. His brothers were the bass player Tommy, drummer and singer Len, and Lynwood. Ray began playing the piano around the age of six or seven, following the example of his mother and his sister, Vera. Gospel influences in his playing came from being part of the church at this stage in his early life.
For three months in 1959, Bryant was the pianist in singer Ella Fitzgerald’s small band. Bryant recorded with “Hal Singer, Arnett Cobb, Benny Golson, Lem Winchester, and Oliver Nelson” in 1959.
He formed his own trio and was signed by producer and talent scout John Hammond to Columbia Records in 1960. Their first album contained the hit single “Little Susie”. Signature Records responded immediately by releasing their own version of Bryant playing the same tune. This version, sold as “Little Susie (Part 4)”, reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot R&B chart.
Hammond also paired Bryant with singer Aretha Franklin for the album Aretha: With The Ray Bryant Combo in 1960. Bryant was in Baltimore with Hammond when the Madison dance craze was developing and, at the producer’s suggestion, adapted an earlier composition for the dance – it was renamed “Madison Time”. This reached No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1960. Another Bryant single – “Sack o’ Woe” – appeared on the R&B chart in 1961.
In 1963, Bryant switched to Sue Records and recorded the first of four albums for the label. Three years later he was with Cadet Records, “which recorded him in a variety of contexts, from trio to orchestral. The range of material was also varied, mixing jazz standards with pop hits of the day.” Despite not having studied arranging formally, Bryant also fulfilled this role for several horn and strings charts for Cadet.
He had another top 100 hit with a cover version of Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” in 1967. The crossover success that Bryant had irritated some jazz purists, but the pianist maintained that he was unconcerned and had been playing such material in clubs for years before the recordings became commercially successful.
In the mid-1990s he recorded with Ray Brown and Lewis Nash as a trio, toured internationally as an unaccompanied soloist, and visited Japan and Europe in the group 100 Golden Fingers”. He played with Benny Golson in New York in 1997.
Bryant died on June 2, 2011, at the age of 79 in Queens, New York, after a long illness.
Hit the Play button and relax. It’s Sunday after all.
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