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Rufus Reid Remembers Ray Bryant

The versatile bassist remembers the pianist who passed away last June 2

Rufus Reid
Ray Bryant

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to know, rehearse, perform and record with one of the most unique, soulful and masterful piano players, Ray Bryant. Ray was very articulate and confident about everything he played. He clearly knew what he wanted from the bassist. No matter what you played, it had to have a huge groove attached to it. Ray Bryant’s pulse was so deep and in the pocket, whether he was playing a ballad like “Since I Fell for You” or “Lush Life,” or some of his infectious original compositions, like “Tonk,” “Walrus Walk,” “Pawn Ticket” or “Cubano Chant.”

When Ray asked me to start playing with him in the mid-’80s, I was truly honored. I had heard him on recordings, but in person he was focused, riveting and always swinging. I knew I was going to have fun, but I also knew I really had to be “on” at all times. Ray’s dynamic range was very broad and totally controlled. He could make the piano appear to levitate with his power, or play so delicately, in a whisper. No matter the tempo, his musical ideas were crystal clear and always grooving. That groove was really his trademark.

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