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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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At St George Church

Arbors Jazz ARCD 19336



Disc 1

1. Introduction By Alyn Shipton
2. Tea For Two
3. Ain't Misbehavin'
4. Love Lies
5. Honeysuckle Rose
6. Medley: Old Folks / Cottage For Sale / 'Taint So, Honey, 'Taint So
7. Viper's Drag
8. Medley: Sophisticated Lady / Ring Dem Bells
Disc 2

1. Introduction By Alyn Shipton
2. Morning Air
3. Ralph's story about Morning Air
4. Echo of Spring
5. Ralph talks about Willie The Lion
6. Dinah
7. When I Grow Too Old to Dream
8. Medley: The Jitterbug Waltz / Say Yes / You're Slightly Less Than Wonderful / The Ladies Who Sing With the Band
9. Medley: Cabin In The Sky / Taking A Chance On Love / Old Fashioned Love
10. Eye Opener
11. St. Louis Blues
Ralph Sutton – Piano

In his introduction to this album, Alyn Shipton describes Ralph Sutton as "the last of the great pianists in the style of jazz called Harlem stride,…a virtuoso style with a distinctive left-hand bass pattern". This description is really too restrictive to cover Sutton’s playing adequately. In fact a strong left-hand pattern is not universally present on every track. Ralph’s style is also notable for such elements as the "filigree ornamentation" which Shipton mentions later, as well as the frequent variations in rhythm which Ralph uses in many pieces. His playing is often highly decorative, without any striding left hand, and he seldom maintains a continuous beat throughout the tunes on this double CD. There is also the wit evident in his cheeky quotations in Ain’t Misbehavin’ from Rhapsody in Blue, Ol’ Man River and Tiptoe Through the Tulips!

Of course, Ralph Sutton is a devotee of Fats Waller, as is clear from the style and the repertoire, which includes seven Waller compositions – not only the familiar Honeysuckle Rose and Viper’s Drag but also lesser-known pieces like Say Yes and The Ladies Who Sing with the Band. This reflects Ralph’s ability to mix the well-known with the unfamiliar, the latter including Love Lies (which he says he learnt from Jack Teagarden) and Morning Air, a highly ornamented piece by Willie "The Lion" Smith. Whatever tune he’s playing, Ralph draws you along with the invention and variety of his improvising.

The recording was made at a BBC concert in 1992 at the converted St George’s Church in Bristol, whose lucid acoustic is ideal for a solo pianist. You can tell it was a BBC broadcast, as the first disc ends with presenter Alyn Shipton saying "You can hear the second half next Monday evening".

Tony Augarde


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