As long-term readers of this blog know, I'm a huge Ronnell Bright fan. My love for the pianist's playing is well documented in my interviews with him (go here
) and in videos in which I've been asked about him. It all started with my passion for Sarah Vaughan's After Hours at the London House
(1958)an album of exquisite singing by the vocalist and extraordinary playing by Ronnell, her accompanist at the time. It's in my Top 10 jazz albums of all time.
In 2008, a year after I started this blog, I decided to track down Ronnell. Much research and many calls later, I found a church where he had played. The church agreed to let him know that a writer was interested in interviewing him. A few days later, my cell phone rang and there was Ronnell. We've been close phone friends ever since. When I spoke with Ronnell last week, he told me about a live trio album he had recorded in Tokyo in 1990 that isn't well known because it was released only in Japan.
The album was recorded a year after Ronnell toured with what remained of the Count Basie Orchestra five years after the bandleader's death. The band was led by Frank Wess and Harry Sweets" Edison, and Ronnell held Basie's chair. It was the second time Ronnell had done sothe first was on No Count Sarah
in 1958. An album of the Japanese tour was recoded called Dear. Mr. Basie
While the band was there, the owner of the Good Day Club in Tokyo asked Ronnell to return the following year to lead a trio. Ronnell's run at the club was recorded on an album called Thanks for the Memory
(All Art). But this superb album wasn't easy to find. I couldn't locate it at Amazon or at other online retailers. I was about to give up when I found copies at a store in Denver (more below).
Ronnell doesn't play much these days but he loves talking about the good old daysespecially his years in the late 1950s and early 1960s with Vaughan. As you can hear on After Hours at the London House
, the singer and her pianist had a very special kinship.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find the Ronnell Bright Trio's Thanks for the Memory
(All Art) here
Ronnell in action with Count Basie's ghost band in 1989 in Japan...
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