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Ray Bryant: Ray’s Tribute to His Piano Friends

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The pianists to whom Ray Bryant pays tribute here are Duke Ellington, Ramsey Lewis, Dave Brubeck, Horace Silver, Vince Guaraldi, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Bobby Timmons, Kenny Barron, Randy Weston, and Joseph Zawinul. He either plays one of his compositions or a number made famous by one of them. It works well; Bryant doesn’t imitate their styles, but always remains himself. NARAS should award him a Grammy for consistency. He just goes on making good, uncompromised records.

The longest tracks are of Brubeck’s “The Duke” and Monk’s “‘Round Midnight,” both which are interestingly developed with a full quota of surprises. The second of these and Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” have more dramatic content and more attention to meaningful dynamics, although “Doodlin'” and “Moanin'” are the kind of pieces on which the strong-fingered Bryant always sounds particularly assured. There’s considerable genial interplay with Ray Drummond (bass) and Winard Harper (drums), both good, but with his powerful, churched left hand Bryant is one pianist who doesn’t really need accompanists.