Ralph Sutton and Dick Cary: Rendezvous at Sunnie’s 1969

A frontline of pianist Ralph Sutton and trumpeter Dick Cary taking on 13 standards guarantees unswervingly straightahead and unabashedly mainstream results. This is Volume 7 of Arbors’ Historical Series, recorded in 1969 at Sunnie’s Rendezvous, near Sutton’s home in Aspen, Colorado. Sutton’s wife, Sunnie, owned the club at the time, begging the question: Why did Ralph play on a keyboard of questionable tuning? But what he played and how he played it could make anyone overlook the nit-picking.

The choice of Cary, who alternates between trumpet and alto horn (the latter resembles a shrunken French horn but produces a sweeter sound), was in keeping with Sutton’s predilection for lyrical brass players. (Think of the many recordings he made with cornetist Ruby Braff.)

No surprises here: Sutton shows his brilliance as a stride player; Cary shows his inventiveness as an improviser. He also is quite adept at avoiding Sutton’s turf, considering the pianist’s relentless left hand. The rhythm section of bassist Al Hall and drummer Cliff Leeman keep the others honest. Hall prefers to “walk” through his solos; Leeman is impressive with his brush work. Best track: the way-up “Sweet Georgia Brown.” Bottom line: The session swings.