Jun 3, 2011
Pianist Ray Bryant passed away June 2, 2011 after a long illness, at the age of 79.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Ray Bryant began playing the piano at the age of six, also performing on bass in junior High School. Turning professional before his age of majority, Bryant accompanied many other leading players such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Melba Liston, and Coleman Hawkins, as well as singers Carmen McRae and Aretha Franklin. From the late 1950s, he led a trio, performing throughout the world, and also worked solo. He was noted for his ability to meet the sophisticated harmonic demands of modern jazz, while retaining the muscle and swing of old forms and the spirit of the gospel music that surrounded him when he was a child.
In addition, he was a noted Jazz composer, with well-known themes such as "Cubano Chant," "The Madison Time," "Monkey Business," and "Little Susie" to his credit. During 1976-1980 he was in peak form when he cut five albums for Pablo Records, including the trio date Here’s Ray Bryant and the solo record Montreux ’77. It was "The Madison Time", which I heard opening and closing Donald Fagen's New York Rock & Soul Revue CD, which opened my eyes to his work.
Along with his wife Claude, Mr. Bryant is survived by a son, Raphael Bryant Jr.; a daughter, Gina; three grandchildren; and two brothers, Leonard and Lynwood. Mr. Bryant’s sister, Vera Eubanks, is the mother of several prominent jazz musicians: Robin Eubanks, a trombonist; Kevin Eubanks, the guitarist and former bandleader on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno”; and Duane Eubanks, a trumpeter.