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Oh Baby (Solo Piano)

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Album Review

Ralph Sutton was one of the greatest stride pianists of all time and arguably the finest stride pianist to emerge after World War II. He loved the music of James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Willie "The Lion" Smith, and was able to emulate them while being a powerful force himself. Oh Baby has two of his earliest record dates. The first 15 selections were recorded in November 1949 and they are a bit different than expected. Instead of stride classics, Sutton is mostly heard playing ragtime pieces along with a few Jelly Roll Morton numbers and a touch of swing. At the time he was helping out Rudi Blesh and Harriet Janis with their upcoming book, They All Played Ragtime, by sight-reading some rags that had been largely unheard for decades. Although Sutton never liked to be called a ragtime pianist since he was more of an improviser, he does a very good job on such pieces as "Cataract Rag," "Frog Legs Rag," and "Grace and Beauty," while swinging up a storm. The remainder of Oh Baby is from a British LP (recorded in Switzerland) from 1952. Although the ten selections are pretty concise (none exceed three minutes), they are more in the stride style that was typical of the brilliant Sutton. He romps through such songs as "Three Little Words," "Drop Me Off in Harlem," and "African Ripples" in addition to playing three pieces by Willie "The Lion" Smith. This set is highly recommended both for its historic value and for being so enjoyable.

Biography

Born: November 4, 1922 in Hamburg, MO

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '80s

Ralph Sutton was the greatest stride pianist to emerge since World War II, with his only close competitors being the late Dick Wellstood and the very versatile Dick Hyman. Nearly alone in his generation, Sutton kept alive the piano styles of Fats Waller and James P. Johnson, not as mere museum pieces but as devices for exciting improvisations. Although sticking within the boundaries of his predecessors, Sutton infused the music with his own personality; few could match his powerful left hand. Ralph...
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Oh Baby (Solo Piano), Ralph Sutton
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