Two Like Minds...
Two classic traditional jazz recordings have finally made it to compact disc. The Ralph Sutton—Ruby Braff Duet (Chaz Jazz 101-2. 1979) and The Ralph Sutton—Ruby Braff Quartet (Chaz Jazz 102-2, 1979) have been re-released on a single Chiaroscuro CD— R & R: Ruby Braff and Ralph Sutton. This disc is a welcome addition to the digital age as this is the jazz of the 1920s and ‘30s as played by two of the greatest practitioners of the subgenera. The late 1970s was not a prime time for traditional jazz, but, in spite of this, Sutton and Braff melded New York Stride and Chicago Coronet into two perfectly conceived recordings.
I prefer the intimacy of the piano—coronet duets, but truly, all of the pieces are duets, the rhythm provided by bassist Jack Lesberg and drummer Gus Johnson, while in perfect context, still afforded only support to the principles. Braff’s tart expressive style is well suited for material such as Robinson’s "Tain’t So Honey, Tain’t So" and a slowed-down "Little Rock Getaway." Sutton could do no wrong with this material, his fingers tumbling on the keys like a functional schizophrenic skipping down the street. Material like "Royal Garden Blues," "Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea," and "I’m Crazy About My Baby" breathes and thrives through the direction of Braff and Sutton.
Ralph Sutton passed away this past December, leaving only Dick Hyman to carry on the stride piano tradition pioneered by Willie "the Lion" Smith, James P. Johnson, and Thomas "Fats" Waller. Ruby Braff, 75-years-young, is still actively recording, releasing the well-received I Hear Music (Arbors 19244, 2002) is past March. Welcome back R & R: Ruby Braff and Ralph Sutton; we are graced to have you back.