Ray Bryant revived again
The late Ray Bryant was a blues-, gospel- and bebop-influenced pianist who performed with Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Lester Young and other jazz stars. He was also Roanoke, Va.-based pianist Lenny Marcus’ teacher. Based on “Tonk” and last year’s Vol. 1 (“Sun Ray”), Marcus has absorbed much of Bryant’s economy, directness and ability to grab you rhythmically. Marcus, who lived in North Carolina in the early 1990s, is accompanied throughout by bassist Rick Eckberg of Hillsborough and drummer Larry Scott. Guests Vladimir Espinosa (percussion) and Tom Artwick (tenor saxophone) also appear.
Bryant’s “Slow Freight,” a blues with a boogie woogie-like bass line, gospel-ish melody and lazy, swaying-down-the-tracks pace, exemplifies the appeal of Bryant’s down-home piano style as modeled by Marcus. The faster “Blues No. 3” shares some of the same musical elements. Bryant’s “Cubano Chant,” with Eckberg’s percussive bass intro, is a rousing minor-key tune with Espinosa’s Latin percussion adding to the color. Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues” is a rollicking vehicle not only for piano, bass and drum solos but also for fine ensemble drive and dynamics. Artwick shines on “St. Louis Blues,” the rhythm section’s shuffle beat providing an inspiring groove.
The album includes 16 performances, most in the three- and four-minute range. Like “Sun Ray,” this album is good for your soul.
Correspondent Owen Cordle