Ray Bryant: North Of The Border

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
If only the rest of us could find overlooked valuables tucked away in closets and cabinets as efficiently and nonchalantly as can Ray Bryant. But then, the rest of us don't have Ray Bryant's talent, his worldwide performing schedule or his modesty. Such quiet modesty led Bryant to tuck away the performance tapes that recording engineers have given him over the years until a less-modest Joel Dorn discovered the cache. Since that discovery, a rediscovery of Ray Bryant's prolific career has been undertaken, and rightly so. With workmanlike dedication and personalized talent, somewhat in the same vein as Hank Jones, Bryant's aggressive approach to the piano and his laid-back in-person demeanor combine to establish a style that remains unmatched after almost 50 years.

The latest in what could be called The Ray Bryant Rediscovery Series is North Of The Border, a live performance at Toronto's Montreal Jazz Bistro in 1997. Well-known Canadian jazz radio announcer Ted O'Reilly broadcast the event four years ago, but now the rest of the world can hear it as well.

Recording only when it's personally satisfying, Bryant accepted the gig in Montreal, not as a solo performance like the one on Somewhere In France, but accompanied by his regular back-up musicians Harry Anderson and Winard Harper.

Bryant starts the recording with his well-remembered and always-enjoyed composition "Slow Freight," a brief hit in the 1960's. And yes, Bryant does pick up speed from a rolling start as he adds yet another tune to the jazz repertoire of tunes (most notably Ellington's) dedicated to the sounds of trains. "Django," the next tune, gradually develops from a rubato introduction into the moderate swing made famous by John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Instead, though, Bryant emphasizes the classical nature of the tune, as he does in Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma." Rather than viewing "Con Alma" initially from a Latin perspective, Bryant delves into its harmonic potential as he substitutes chords to present the tunes more as a German lied than a jazz standard.

Referring to some of his work with Miles Davis, Bryant expressively develops "Nardis" in such a way to emphasize the half-tone resolution at the end of the chorus, not to mention the minor-keyed ominous atmosphere the tune creates. Bryant performs his own approach to ballads as well on "Good Morning Heartache" and "When Sunny Gets Blue," the staggering of the beat and the arpeggiation characteristically his.

Catching Ray Bryant in concert is a rare treat any more; he performs only several times a year. However, the fact that Label M has access to Bryant's lode of cassettes must mean that Bryant's discography will keep growing, whether he enters a studio again or not. Let's hope that it continues to grow.

And let's hope he does future studio recordings as well. There can never be enough of Ray Bryant.


Track Listing: Slow Freight, Django, Li'l Darlin', Good Morning Heartache, Nardis, Moanin', Con Alma, When Sunny Gets Blue, Little Susie

Personnel: Ray Bryant, piano; Harry Anderson, bass; Winard Harper, drums

| Record Label: Label M | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


More Articles

Read Nightfall CD/LP/Track Review Nightfall
by John Kelman
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Pekka CD/LP/Track Review Pekka
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 22, 2017
Read In the Still of the Night CD/LP/Track Review In the Still of the Night
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Zea CD/LP/Track Review Zea
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 22, 2017
Read Asian Fields Variations CD/LP/Track Review Asian Fields Variations
by John Kelman
Published: May 21, 2017
Read Left Right Left CD/LP/Track Review Left Right Left
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 21, 2017
Read "Stinger" CD/LP/Track Review Stinger
by Joe Gatto
Published: January 22, 2017
Read "One: Detroit-Cleveland Trio" CD/LP/Track Review One: Detroit-Cleveland Trio
by Troy Dostert
Published: September 7, 2016
Read "Electric Ascension" CD/LP/Track Review Electric Ascension
by John Sharpe
Published: October 5, 2016
Read "The Lightning Bell" CD/LP/Track Review The Lightning Bell
by John Eyles
Published: July 19, 2016
Read "Sizzle" CD/LP/Track Review Sizzle
by Geannine Reid
Published: October 10, 2016
Read "Miles Smiles" CD/LP/Track Review Miles Smiles
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: July 2, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Why wait?

Support All About Jazz and we'll deliver exclusive content, hide ads, and provide read access to our future articles.