"A heavy sound, imagination, and his uniquely soulful delivery
are the functional components of Rusty Bryant's style."
Record Research is a collector's magazine published bimonthly and a feature of that magazine is a record auction, consisting primarily of 78 recordings. During a reading of a recent issue I came across a reference to some research possibilities on R&B tenor sax players and in the very small script used for this section, there was the simple query "Where are these mighty warriors?".
It struck me as odd that musicians would ever be referred to as warriors but further reflection leads me to believe this an adequate and quite accurate description. To anyone growing up in the late 1940's and early 1950's with an interest in R&B, the keening wail of a reed-biting tenorman is a sound easily recalled. Of course, in those days it wasn't so much what you played but what extracurricular activities you could get into your act. The "iron pipe" mouthpiece became popular and the cats would jam their knee into the bell of the horn trying to get a quarter tone lower. Guys like Sil Austin and Red Prysock could squeel notes that even an Illinois Jacquet couldn't find while other cats could peel down to their underwear during the course of a solo.
The Brooklyn Paramount had fantastic shows often featuring hornmen like "Big" Al Sears. Sam "The Man" Taylor or "Screamin'" Jimmy Wright but it was a sound and method not relegated to any particular area. Try to think back: Lynn Hope, "Big" Jay McNeely, "Gator" Jackson, Joe Houston. Chuck Higgins, all those guys from the Hampton band and, of course, the hundreds of men who never got into the recording studios. Yeah! No question about it--warriors.
The point of all this is that Rusty Bryant was a part of that scene. Each one of the men mentioned managed to come up with some kind of hit record and Rusty had several an the old Dot label. The big one was "All Night Long"--a doubletime treatment of "Night Train." The hit carried Rusty all over the country--into a feature billing at the Apollo Theatre through a long string of one-nighters and eventually back to his home base in Columbus, Ohio. It was at the Carolyn Club in Columbus where many of those records were cut and the use of a train-whistle and the pounding enthusiasm of his live audience gave Rusty an identifiable and quite marketable sound.
But time marches on and those warriors who have been unable to update their playing are now among the missing.
In reality, Rusty has never joined those missing in action. He has continued to play in Columbus and throughout Ohio. He has led a band for most of that time and at one point his vocalist was a young lady named Nancy Wilson. Rusty worked very hard trying to put her out front and some sides were cut for Dot but they have no doubt been completely forgotten.
As far as recording is concerned, Rusty has been away for some time. The Dot affiliation came to an end after two ill-conceived albums in that label's Jazz Horizons series and there were only a few sideman dates with old buddy, Hank Marr, for King. In September of 1968, he recorded for Prestige with Richard "Groove" Holmes, That Healin' Feelin' (Prestige 7601).
Today Rusty works with his trio at a club in Columbus called The Zoo. If you are in the area, drop by to see him--he will still play "All Night Long" for you. He will also play alto for you and probably demonstrate the electronics of the Conn Multi-Vider. During the day he is an official in the Columbus Musicians Union--the first black representative in the Union's history.
--BOB PORTER, from the liner notes
Rusty Bryant Returns, Prestige.
A selected discography of Rusty Bryant albums.
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