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Ray Bryant (1931-2011) was a superb, consummately talented and thoroughly accomplished pianist whose talents were honed by performing in all kinds of places and situations with all kinds of players.
Unusual for a pianist who emerged during the bop era, he had a two-handed, orchestral approach to the piano and his career soon reached one of its early peaks with Con Alma, a trio album that confirmed his all-round skills. On it, everything he does is pointed and considered: his solos have a sense of continuity and climax and, unlike many of his contemporaries he can and does use the full resources of the instrument.
It is paired with Little Susie, another delightful trio album, solidly in the best tradition of jazz piano at the time, swinging, melodic and filled with joie de vivre. There are undeniable influences in his work, particularly a more earthy Teddy Wilson, and a compendium of many major leaguers up to his contemporaries. But he was also recognisably his own man, with a touch that was more emphatic than the older pianists of his style, yet also more refined than younger exponents.
Both albums catch the essence of what made Ray Bryant such an outstanding young jazz pianist.
01. Con Alma (Gillespie-Fuller) 6:56
02. C Jam Blues (Ellington) 4:23
03. Nuts and Bolts (Bryant) 3:05
04. Cubano Chant (Bryant) 4:23
05. 'Round Midnight (Monk-hanighen-Williams) 3:52
06. Autumn Leaves (Kosma-Mercer) 5:23
07. Milestones (Davis) 4:11
08. Django (Lewis) 5:38 *
09. Little Susie (Bryant) 4:42
10. By Myself (Schwartz-Dietz) 3:19
11. Blues for Norine (Bryant) 4:34
12. Misty (Garner) 4:02
13. Moon-Faced, Starry-Eyed (Weill-Hughes) 3:24
14. Big Buddy (Bryant) 5:33
15. Willow Weep for Me (Ronell) 5:09
16. So In Love (Porter) 5:36
17. If I Can Just Make It (Bryant) 2:11
Total time: 77:00 min. aprox.
(*) Bonus Track
Tracks #1-7 from the Columbia album "Con Alma" (CS-8433)
Track #8 is a bonus track unissued on the original LP
Tracks #9-17 from the Columbia album "Little Susie" (CS-8244)
Personnel on "Con Alma":
Ray Bryant (p), Bill Lee (b on #1-6), Arthur Harper (b on #7-8), Mickey Roker (d).
Recorded in New York City, December 5 (#1-6), December 7 (#7-8), 1960
Personnel on "Little Susie":
Ray Bryant (p), Tommy Bryant (b), Gus Johnson (d on #9-12), Eddie Locke (d on #13-17).
Recorded in New York City, December 10 (#9-12), 1959, and January 19 (#13-17), 1960
Original recordings produced by John Hammond
This CD release produced by Jordi Pujol
1) We have excluded Ray Bryants piano solo tunes 'Greensleeves' and 'Ill Wind' from this release of the Little Susie & Con Alma albums, because they did not fit on a single CD. Bryant recorded them in New York City on January 19, 1960 and December 5, 1960 respectively, and they are included on the double CD Red Garland / Ray Bryant Alone - Blues & Ballads (FSRCD 658).
2) Some sources state that the album "Con Alma" was recorded on different dates. We have chosen to keep the ones that appeared on the back cover of the original LP.