New York, NY Label M continues its mission to present timeless live jazz recordings with North Of The Border from the legendary jazz pianist Ray Bryant. Recorded at the Montreal Jazz Bistro in Toronto, Canada on January 20, 1997, the date captures Bryant with his trio featuring Winard Harper on drums and Harry Anderson on bass. Scheduled for release on June 5, 2001, North Of The Border follows up last years critically acclaimed solo piano album, Somewhere In France.
Similar to his pursuit of previously unreleased jazz concerts that produced Somewhere In France, Label Ms Joel Dorn once again returned to a trash bag full of $1.98 cassettes that Ray Bryant had been storing for years in an old china cabinet. After wading through countless tapes that Bryant had been presented with by soundmen, disc jockeys and fans from all over the world, Dorn hit upon a performance from Canada that had been broadcast over the air by popular Canadian jazz programmer Ted OReilly. The result of that discovery is North of the Border, nine tracks of pure Ray Bryant magic that exemplify why hes one of jazz musics greatest living legends. Driven by Winard Harpers propulsive rhythms, live Bryant staples such as Slow Freight, Django, Con Alma and Little Susie sparkle with new life. Seldom heard Byrant interpretations of Lil Darlin, Nardis, Moanin and When Sunny Gets Blue are definitive in their rarity, highlighting Bryants endless songbook and ability to reach back for new inspiration.
Joel and I love working on these projects together. I never really thought much about that bag of tapes, so to be able and go back and find these great little shows is wonderful, muses Ray. Really what I love to do is gig, so these records represent me better than anything I could come up with in the studio at this point.
Growing up in Philadelphia, Ray Bryant first began playing piano at the age of six. The younger brother of bassist Tommy Bryant, Ray began listening to the likes of Art Tatum, Count Basie and Teddy Wilson, which heavily influenced his style over the years. A member of the local musicians union and playing professionally by the time he was 14-years old, he emerged as one of the most revered pianists in the already fertile Philadelphia music scene. After landing gigs and serving stints on the road in the late 40s with Tiny Grimes, Jack Teagarden and Johnny Smith, Ray became the house pianist at Phillys Blue Note jazz club. It was there that he formed relationships with Miles Davis, Coleman Hawkins and Sonny Rollins, all of whom hed record monumental albums with over the years. In 1955, he cut his debut record as a leader for Epic Records, which introduced the great Betty Carter to the world on side two.
In 2001, Ray Bryant carries the torch for jazzs golden age, remaining one of its last active artists. Often under-recognized despite his prolific discography, both as a leader and sideman, the pianist is finally garnering the legendary status he so deserves. To this day, Bryant performs around the world, while he plans to continue work with Label M in presenting live recordings from his past. Everythings really great right now, states Ray. Im quite content, Ive got a little money in the bank and steady work whenever I want it; What more could I ask for?