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Remembering Ralph Sutton This Week On Riverwalk Jazz

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Jim Cullum Jr. In an encore presentation this week, Riverwalk Jazz presents pianist Ralph Sutton
Ralph Sutton
b.1922
’s 2000 visit to The Landing in San Antonio with The Jim Cullum Jr.
Jim Cullum Jr.
Jim Cullum Jr.
b.1941
cornet
Jazz Band.

Between tunes, Sutton talked with host David Holt about his early experiences and influences and how he came to join Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden
1905 - 1964
trombone
’s band. Longtime Jim Cullum Jazz Band pianist John Sheridan shares a story about an afternoon lesson with Sutton in San Antonio. Sutton offers rarely-heard stride piano repertoire including Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller
1904 - 1943
piano
’s “Clothesline Ballet” and familiar pieces such as “Love Lies,” and “Porter’s Love Song to a Chambermaid.”

The program is distributed in the US by Public Radio International, on Sirius/XM satellite radio and can be streamed on-demand from the Riverwalk Jazz website.

“When he would get going on something like ‘Honky Tonk Train,’ he would have people leaping out of their seats,” recalled clarinet legend Kenny Davern
Kenny Davern
Kenny Davern
1935 - 2006
clarinet
of stride pianist Ralph Sutton. Sutton was a great ‘two-handed’ pianist, following in the footsteps of Harlem stride giants James P. Johnson, Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller
1904 - 1943
piano
, and Willie "The Lion" Smith
Willie
Willie "The Lion" Smith
1897 - 1973
piano
.

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
Jack Teagarden
Jack Teagarden
1905 - 1964
trombone
while still a college student. He later worked in a trio with Albert Nicholas and was the intermission pianist at Eddie Condon
Eddie Condon
Eddie Condon
1905 - 1973
guitar
’s Greenwich Village club for eight years. Sutton worked with Bob Scobey
Bob Scobey
b.1916
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
Ruby Braff
Ruby Braff
b.1927
cornet
, Milt Hinton
Milt Hinton
Milt Hinton
1910 - 2000
bass, acoustic
, Jay McShann
Jay McShann
Jay McShann
1909 - 2006
piano
, Kenny Davern
Kenny Davern
Kenny Davern
1935 - 2006
clarinet
and Peanuts Hucko
Peanuts Hucko
Peanuts Hucko
1918 - 2003
clarinet
.

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
Teddy Wilson
Teddy Wilson
1912 - 1986
piano


“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
Dick Wellstood
b.1927
piano


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