24 Décembre 1931, Philadelphia Pennsylvania USA, ,
A pianist and composer, Afro-American Ray Bryant was one of the jazz greats who helped take the genre into the mainstream. Raised on gospel music, his mother played piano in the local church in Pennsylvania, his brothers Tommy and Len played bass and drums respectively and his sister Vera became a pianist/organist specialising in gospel music. Studying classical piano from the age of six, he played gospel music in church, as well as double bass and tuba in his school band.
Drawn to concentrate on jazz in his teens, he was 14 when he joined Jimmy Johnson's band and became actively involved in the Philadelphia jazz scene, playing with John Coltrane and Ben Golson. Hired by bandleader Mickey Collins, his major breakthrough came in 1953 when he became house pianist at Philadelphia's leading jazz club Blue Note where he accompanied luminaries such as Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and Lester Young. Encouraged by them he moved to New York and began his recording career with Blue Note and Prestige, playing with many jazz greats like Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge.
He spent two years on the road accompanying singer Carmen McRae, toured with Dizzy Gillespie and formed his own trio. Developing as a composer, he achieved crossover success with the hits 'Little Susie' (1959) and 'The Madison Time' (1960), a dance craze of the time. He later had further success with his own interpretation of the Bobbie Gentry hit 'Ode to Billie Joe'. He continued to record and tour extensively in America and Europe with the Ray Bryant Trio through the next two decades, releasing his last album 'In the Back Room' in 2008. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 79.
Artist biography compiled by BDS/West 10. All rights reserved