Ray Bryant and His Prolific Music Career


Introduction to Ray Bryant

Ray Bryant (born December 24, 1931 – died June 2, 2011) was American jazz pianist and composer who led such groups as the Ray Bryant Combo (also called Ray Bryant and his Combo) and the Ray Bryant Trio. The Pennsylvania-born Bryant was primarily a jazz musician; he could also play a lot more genres including bop, blues, gospel, and boogie-woogie). He had worked prolifically since he was younger, even before he could reach the age of majority. He worked and collaborated with other artists and singers such as Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Jo Jones, Sonny Rollins, Melba Liston, Coleman Hawkins, Carmen McRae, and Aretha Franklin. From 1955 until 2007, he released 40-plus albums as a band leader, and several other recordings as a sideman and collaborator. His singles were staples of R&B charts, his highest-ranking single being “The Madison Time – Part I” which even grabbed a spot on the Billboard Top 40 pop chart. Bryant died from a lingering illness in 2011, aged 79.

Ray Bryant’s early life and music career

American jazz pianist and composer Ray Bryant was born Raphael Homer Bryant on December 24, 1931 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bryant developed an aptitude playing the piano when he was only six years old. In high school, he began playing bass and later became a professional player in his adolescence.

Bryant working with the big names in music

From 1948-1949, Bryant embarked on a tour with guitarist Tiny Grimes and also became a regular in Philadelphia’s Blue Note club. Between 1953 and 1956, he also accompanied for several big names, including Lester Young, Jo Jones, Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, Carmen McRae, Melba Liston, Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis. Not long thereafter, Bryant moved to Detroit, Michigan.

Bryant’s long career, modest success on the major charts, and later life

During in the late 1950’s, Bryant became a solo recording artist and also a leader of a trio who was able to perform worldwide. While as a soloist, he also embarked on a tour mainly in Europe.

As a notable jazz composer, Bryant’s best remembered pieces were “Cubano Chant,” “The Madison Time,” “Monkey Business,” and “Little Susie.” During the early 60s music era he began to enter to the national charts.

“Madison Time” gave Bryant his biggest hit and his only Top 40 pop single, reaching its peak position at #30. It also landed at #5 on the R&B singles chart. Later charting singles were “Little Susie,” (#12 R&B), “Sack O’Woe” (#22 R&B), and “Ode to Billy Joe” (#89, pop), his only other Hot 100 single.

Throughout his long and relatively prolific career, he released 40-plus albums from 1955 to 2008, as a bandleader. He also recorded albums as a sideman along with Art Blakey, Arnett Cobb, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Golson, Tiny Grimes, Coleman Hawkins, Jo Jones, Clifford Jordan, Yusef Lateef, Lee Morgan, Max Roach, and Sonny Rollins.

Together with his musician brother Tommy and Oz Perkins, Ray Bryant provided the back-up music for the off-Broadway run of the comedy show Cambridge Circus. Members of the cast included Monty Python’s John Cleese and Graham Chapman as well as Bill Oddie, Tim-Brooke Taylor and others.

Bryant had recorded for several labels namely: Epic, Prestige, Columbia, Sue, Cadet, Atlantic, Pablo and EmArcy

79-year old Bryant succumbed to a long illness in 2011, in Queens, New York.

Ray Bryant’s discography (may be impartial)

New Jazz Records


  • A: Stocking Feet
  • B: Joy

Signature Records

(Jan 1960)

  • A: Little Susie (Part 2)
  • B: Little Susie (Part 4)

Columbia Records

(Jan 1960)

  • A: Little Susie (Part I)
  • B: Little Susie (Part III)

(Mar 1960)

  • A: The Madison Time (Part 1)
  • B: The Madison Time (Part 2)

(Jan 1961)

  • A: Sack O’ Woe
  • B: Walk No More

(May 1961)

  • A: Moonrise
  • B: First Lady

(Jan 1964)

  • A: Glissamba
  • B: Joey

(Aug 1964)

  • A: Shake A Lady
  • B: Blues March

(Mar 1967)

  • A: Slow Freight
  • B: If You Go Away

(Sep 1967)

  • A: Ode To Billy Joe
  • B: Ramblin’

(Nov 1967)

  • A: Little Suzie
  • B: City Tribal Dance

(Dec 1967)

  • A: Pata Pata
  • B: Doing My Thing

(Apr 1968)

  • A: To Sir With Love
  • B: Dinner On The Grounds

(Aug 1968)

  • A: Mrs. Robinson
  • B: Poochie

(Nov 1968)

  • A: Up Above The Rock
  • B: Little Green Apples

(Apr 1969)

  • A: Quizas, Quizas, Quizas
  • B: After Hours


  • A: Let It Be
  • B: Shake-A-Lady
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