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Solos & Duets

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Album Review

Recorded in Toronto's Café de Copains in 1988-1989 and at the Kurtheater in Baden, Switzerland in November 1991, Solos & Duets is arguably the best album ever realized by pianist Barbara Sutton-Curtis. But let's not argue — this is a superb collection of 14 jazz piano essays performed solo and in duet with big brother Ralph Sutton backed by bassist Reggie Johnson and drummer Jake Hanna. Both Suttons specialized in the Fats Waller book. Five delectable Waller tunes, including the rare and seldom heard "Oriental Tones" and "Why Am I Alone," are bundled with such attractive melodies as James P. Johnson's "A-Flat Dream," Jay McShann's "Hootie Blues," Bix Beiderbecke's "Davenport Blues," W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues," and Joe Greene's "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying." In terms of song selection and interpretive brilliance, this is a major triumph for the Suttons and for jazz in general. Tracks one, two, and nine-fourteen will prove especially satisfying as examples of traditional jazz played on a Bösendorfer piano.


Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Born just west of St. Louis in Howell, MO, in 1930, Barbara Sutton-Curtis developed her considerable piano chops in quiet competition with her big brother Ralph Sutton, who was born in Hamburg, MO, in 1922. Barbara Sutton began playing professionally in 1949, and in 1951 Ralph set her up with a gig at the Central Plaza in New York City. Brother and sister started performing duets publicly in 1959. Both individuals developed remarkable facility as interpreters of the Harlem stride piano tradition,...
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