Ray Bryant Biography

Raphael Bryant, 24 December 1931, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Coming from a musical family gave Bryant an advantage - his mother played piano and his sister sang in a gospel choir. He started on bass, but passed it to his older brother Tom, in order to play piano. The Bryant Brothers became the house band for Philadelphia’s Blue Note Club, where they played with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. It was these contacts that led to recordings in the mid-50s with Davis, Sonny Rollins and as an accompanist to Carmen McRae. He led a trio at New York’s Village Vanguard in 1959. He formed his original trio in 1959 and was signed to Columbia Records by John Hammond. His debut album for that label was a considerable success and the same year (1960) he had a surprise hit with the infectious and memorable ‘Little Susie’, named after his daughter, and ‘Cubano Chant’ and ‘Slow Freight’. The single was released as a two-part disc; part one being the one that got radio play. He followed with the highly commercial ‘Madison Time’, a celebration of the dance craze. he moved to the soul and R&B label Sue in 1963, his music had always been strongly driven by blues and gospel. By the early 70s he was once again in the minds of the jazz critics when he made a strong performance at the 1972 Montreaux Jazz Festival. He now works more in Europe where he is much more appreciated.

Initially inspired by the style of Teddy Wilson, Bryant’s gospel inflections give his playing a modern, rootsy edge. For a number of years much of his work was unavailable; fortunately, with the advent of the compact disc, Bryant’s highly underrated work was made available again. He continues to perform and record prolifically as both a soloist and leader of a trio. Through The Years (Vols. 1 & 2) (1992) was an excellent recording, covering Bryant’s entire career, and demonstrating, if anything, that his technique has improved with age.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.