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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Easy Street

Sackville SKCD 2-2040



1. Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

2. Mary Lou

3. Easy Street

4. Clarinet Marmalade

5. June Night

6. When I Grow Too Old to Dream

7. Wolverine Blues

8. Tea for Two

9. A Hundred Years from Today

10. Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gave to Me

11. Handful of Keys

12. T'ain't So Honey T'ain't So

13. China Boy

Ralph Sutton - Piano

Bob Barnard - Cornet (tracks 1-5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13)

Len Barnard - Drums (tracks 1-8, 10, 13)


This album was recorded in 1991 in Sydney when Ralph Sutton was on a tour of Australia. It was originally released in 1995, so this is a reissue - but a very welcome one.

As I have suggested in previous reviews, Ralph Sutton was not just a stride pianist, as some critics have tried to pigeonhole him. He could play convincingly in a variety of styles, as this album shows. For example, the opening track contains more key changes than you can count - each one entered seamlessly. And Tea for Two illustrates his delicate touch and the way he could fit runs into a solo without any feeling of awkwardness. Part of his improvisation on this tune also demonstrates the ease with which he played in stride style.

Ralph was joined for this recording by two Australian brothers: Bob and Len Barnard. Cornettist Bob played in Len's band for a while, but he indisputably surpasses his brother on this album. Len plays some neat drum solos on Clarinet Marmalade and Wolverine Blues but otherwise he fails to make much of a contribution to the album. Some of his accents are misplaced, and he is not really missed on the three tracks where he is absent.

Bob Barnard, on the other hand, is a real virtuoso, improvising smoothly and adding poetic touches on the cornet, from which he produces a warm tone. He blends perfectly with Sutton's piano, perhaps reminding the listener of duets that Ruby Braff recorded with various pianists. He can swing at fast tempos and play lyrically on ballads.

But the real star of this album is Ralph Sutton. It is said that his first inspiration was at the age of nine, when he heard Fats Waller for the first time. Like Waller, Sutton could stride but also play decoratively. Ralph's allegiance to Fats is clear in his solo version of Waller's Handful of Keys. It is an affectionate performance but by no means a copy of Waller's version. Ralph starts by taking it at a gentler tempo and adding plenty of decoration. When he speeds it up, it is as though Fats is still with us, grinning and thoroughly enjoying himself. A genuine tribute.

Tony Augarde

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