Record collectors drool at the thought of finding long-lost recordings by their favorite artists. For Ralph Sutton fans, the day has arrived. The late pianist’s family allowed Arbors Jazz to release a session from 1961. Sutton’s brother-in-law, Hal Curtis, recorded the concert at The Colonel’s Ranch Wagon
in Marin County, California. The tapes spent the last 42 years in the private collection of the family.
Ralph Sutton (1922-2001) was a member of an elite group of piano men. Few of his contemporaries are still with us. Joe Sullivan, Stan Wrightsman, Dick Wellstood and Don Ewell are gone but we thankfully still have such treasures as Dick Hyman and Butch Thompson.
The material on this CD is wonderful in that most pieces are tunes that the pianist seldom, if ever, recorded. There are tunes penned by great piano players including Fats Waller, Clarence Williams, Earl Hines, Stan Wrightsman and Bob Zurke. There’s a fine version of Lazy Mood
written by the late New Orleans tenor man, Eddie Miller. Barbara Sutton-Curtis, Ralph’s sister, feels that these are the happiest, most swinging things that she ever heard her brother play. Agreed! At age 39, Sutton was at his best and performing for an audience of friends.
The drummer on the gig was Hugh Cregg, a close friend of the pianist. Cregg was a jazz loving medical doctor who, at one time, played in the big bands. As a matter of interest, Hugh Cregg is the father of Hugh Anthony Cregg who sports the stage name of Huey Lewis. Everyone knows Huey Lewis and the News
It’s nice to hear Ralph Sutton within the total freedom of a duo. In my humble opinion, the six minute knockout
version of Squeeze Me
is worth the price of the album. Ralph Sutton is sadly missed and he leaves an indelible imprint in the history of stride piano.