With his knack for improvisation and a left hand that packed a wallop, stride piano genius Ralph Sutton built a career spanning half a century, and taking him to the world’s great jazz spots. Chancing upon a radio broadcast on station WIL in St. Louis, Ralph Sutton’s life was changed when he was nine years old and heard Fats Waller perform for the first time. The year was 1931.
Sutton’s career took off in 1941 when he began playing with Jack Teagarden
for a time, then was featured in 1963 at the first Dick Gibson Jazz Party in Colorado. Five years later that would lead to the formation of the World’s Greatest Jazzband, of which he was a founding member.
Thereafter, Sutton’s star rose. He recorded a series of albums and toured the world; solo and in a variety of settings. His musical partners included Ruby Braff
On TV, Ralph appeared on the Dick Cavett Show, the Ed Sullivan Show, the Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, the Steve Allen Show, and the Today Show. He appeared at The Town Hall and the 92nd Street Y in New York, the Boston Symphony Hall, and the Hollywood Bowl in LA.
He recorded for Arbors, RCA Victor, Columbia, Verve, Decca, and Commodore, among others. In 1993, Ralph was inducted into the New Jersey Jazz Hall of Fame.
Ralph Sutton died in Evergreen, CO on December 30, 2001 at the age of 79.
Fellow Musicians Remember Ralph Sutton:
“He always plays the right things behind me, and he’s just sensational as a soloist.” —Peanuts Hucko
“He’s a complete musician—even plays Chopin, Brahms, and Bach beautifully.” —Teddy Wilson
“I’m glad to have passed through this life—just to have met Ralph Sutton.” —Milt Hinton
“It’s easy to hear why he had such an impact on musicians and critics alike. In addition to strength, accuracy and swing, his playing possessed a naturalness and sense of inevitability that marked him as a star from the first. And then of course there was his ‘Fatsness.’” —Dick Wellstood