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Ray Bryant: Potpourri

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This is Ray Bryant of 1960 vintage with Mickey Roker on drums and Jimmy Rowser on bass in a good program that includes titles by Ellington, Basie, Shavers, Monk, Gillespie, Bud Powell, Lester Young and Miles Davis, not to mention an Englishman’s “My One and Only Love.” It is an exemplary disc that is good to have reissued, because Bryant’s kind of strong, swinging piano needs to be heard now to influence an understanding of what Benny Green calls, in his fine notes, “the desirability of a synthesis between what is and what used to be.” Bryant achieves this brilliantly, even on the bebop numbers, where, instead of rupture, continuity is maintained. He doesn’t lose “the earthliness of the old time” (Green again), because his music is infused with both blues and gospel intensity. Just how well informed he was about “what used to be” is delightfully illustrated on his unique “One O’Clock Jump,” and he signs off with a properly turbulent “Night in Tunisia.”

That Bryant is not playing at festivals worldwide all the time is further indication of the screwed-up state of the business.