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Ralph Sutton: It’s So Nice It Must Be Illegal! Volume One

Until his death at 79 in 2001, Ralph Sutton was one of the leading keepers of the stride-piano flame. His It’s So Nice It Must Be Illegal! Volume One (Nagel-Heyer) should be required listening for jazz hipsters and existentialists everywhere who do not get enough ecstatic, two-handed, 10-fingered versions of “My Blue Heaven” in their lives. The CD was cut live in 1988 in Amilly, France, at a concert presented by the Hot Club de Gatinais. The low-tech recording beautifully captures the ambience of a particular, magical evening in time.

The pianist is unmistakably delighted with two first-time hook-ups-one with drummer Michael Silva, the other with a warmly appreciative French audience, whom the trio takes on a songful journey, from happy (“Ain’t Misbehavin'”) to sad (“Everything Happens to Me”). Sutton was master of an art form defined by small developmental details within an all-encompassing bouncing momentum.

Originally Published