Ray Bryant made his mark in the jazz world with some very soulful piano playing, mixing a dose of modernism with a double helping of blues. So it comes as some surprise to find him focusing on old-fashioned stride piano playing on his 2008 CD In the Back Room
. Here he performs solo versions of songs by James P. Johnson and W.C. Handy, as well as five Fats Waller tunes, including this rendition of "Ain't Misbehavin'." Bryant proves that he is conversant with stride mannerisms, but his playing lacks the boisterous energy that the great masters of this style brought to their performances. This sounds the way stride might have been played if it had been transplanted from the Harlem rent parties to an academic setting. So it comes as no surprise to see that Bryant recorded this music at Rutgers University. Did the environment inspire a more subdued demeanor, Mr. Bryant? Some listeners may enjoy this more restrained approach to Fats Waller's music, but for my part I prefer a bit more misbehavin' in my Harlem stride.
Tags: harlem stride
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