Press Excerpts“No Regrets is a delight from start to finish straightforward, quiet, swinging . while frequently sounding joyful…Highly recommended.” Scott Yanow,- LA JAZZ Scene Magazine
“Bryant sings and plays piano with such clarity of purpose. She aims to entertain her audience,to welcome them into a private circle she makes . . .This is no ‘jazz diva’ but rather a very warm, friendly woman who plays and sings from the heart.”
LA JAZZ Scene Magazine
“The veteran vocalist and pianist showed Tuesday at her Spaghettini appearance just what it takes to win over a crowd . . . Her warm, narrative vocal style and smart ways at the keyboard were all it took to turn the assembled from their cocktails and conversation toward the melodious stories she offered . . .Though her style, especially her piano playing, is more dense than the spare delivery of Shirley Horn, Bryant seems of Horn’s caliber, and aspiring young vocalists cluttering the scene would do well to give her a listen.” -Los Angeles Times, JAZZ REVIEW“… Although Bryant cites Jay McShann as her primary piano influence, you wouldn’t hear him playing the discreet background figures she underlines during one of Eicher’s solos. Her voice is soft and pleasing, and her originals (“Francine’s Beguine,” “Night Sounds,” “Samba Di”) are well worth hearing . . .” – Los Angeles Reader – Critics Choice
“The best vocal moments come from (Betty) Bryant, whose intimate ways with a song transfer well to the album (Live at Spaghettini). Bryant knows how to draw her audience in with a style that’s almost conversational. Providing her own piano accompaniment, she imparts class and character to almost every note, and her composing skills, evidenced here on “Put a Lid on It,” are clever and knowingly humorous.” – Los Angeles Times
“Bryant’s Kansas City blues roots guaranteed a briskly floating swing that brought buoyancy and light-heartedness to virtually everything she played.” – Los Angeles Times
“It is seldom that one hears an excellent vocalist who is equally adroit as an instrumentalist. Betty Bryant is one of those rare creatures.” – Drama-Logue
VENICE MAGAZINE INTERVIEWBETTY BRYANT Siren of Second Street by judi jordan
photography jeff dunas
hair and makeup liza mae
This article was originally published in the June 2000 issue ofVenice – Los Angeles Arts & Entertainment Magazine,and is published here with their permission. “Scotch on the rocks, vodka straight up, or iced lemonade…name your poison at the piano bar. Snuggle into a cozy ringside club chair and let Betty Bryant steal your heart. For forty-five minutes your ears will be tickled, your heart will dance, and your feet may find a will of their own, for Betty Bryant is an enchantress. Until August, when she leaves for gigs in Japan, Bryant is weaving her spell in Santa Monica at Bob Burns Restaurant, at Second Street and Wilshire. Accompanied by Tomas Gargano, a gregarious, passionate bass player, Bryant is having so much fun that the term “playing music” takes on a whole new meaning. The duo embody a respectful alchemy, the kind you experience with true musicians, and their joy is infectious.
With Betty tickling the ivories and Tomas caressing his stand up, they trip the light fantastic through baroque, jazz, and boogie woogie riffs. But when Bryant finally sings “He May Be Your Man” with a sweetness reminiscent of Ella, splashed with a whisper of Carmen McRae, and a sliver of Shirley Bassey, there are not words to adequately describe the feeling this writer felt. Sophisticated, smooth, and exciting all at once, Bryant is a singer of the first order. Her cool, jovial manner and “seen-it-all-and-boy-was-it-fun” attitude ooze with ease. Her smile’s as sweet as Tupelo honey but the wicked twinkle in her eye tells you she knows about life. A set with Betty will have you believing in love again (or at least in sweet, delicious sin!). Sink back in that chair, sip your drink (with Betty singing, even water is intoxicating), and close your eyes while she croons “I Thought About You.” Pure pleasure. Next thing you know, you’ve landed in a fragrant Mississippi kitchen, grubbing on butter- soaked grits and fatback with the hip-twitch-ing, honky tonk-bluesy “Grease In My Gravy.” Then-wham! You’re floating in the back of a stretch limo cruising down Sunset Boulevard with “When Did You Leave Heaven.” Diversity is Miss Bryant’s calling card. So is laughter. At seventy years of age, it’s obvious that music has kept Betty Bryant very young indeed. And very happy. Her new CD is appropriately entitled Come Laugh With Me.
Venice: The message of your new CD is…
Betty Bryant: It’s about fun.Where did this all begin?My first musical engagement was in Topeka, Kansas. I went to college there; I was born in Kansas City. I went to Washburn University. I didn’t study music, I studied fine arts. I was a very rebellious kid, what- ever my parents didn’t want me to do- that’s what I did. The first professional job I did was on a radio station following the baseball games. They put me on opposite ‘Lonesome Gal,’ a woman who had this real sexy voice. I interspersed live music with records.
At that time I only knew classical music; I could play “St. Louis Blues” and about half of “Body And Soul.” And from there I started learning very fast. I joined a band in Topeka-Buddy Brown’s Band. In those days I was cute and skinny. Buddy had gigs around Topeka, and I became a standup singer. I just lucked out. Then I moved to Kansas City. There was a guy by the name of Earl Grant with a band, and we played at a place called Milly’s. Milly’s was a nice, cozy lounge. Most of the black clubs were “joints” back then, but Milly’s was the only black cocktail lounge. Well, Earl decided to move to LA., so I moved into Earl’s place at Milly’s.
A couple of years later I came to L.A. and looked up Earl. My first LA job was working on Earl’s night off, playing at Ye Little Club, in Beverly Hills. It was 1955. It was a really neat little club.You travel light, and quick I play in Tokyo three months out of the year. At a place called Tableaux’s Lounge. My boss in Tokyo is a wonderful man, I adore him. He also owns a place around here, Monsoon (Cafe on the Third Street Promenade) and La Boheme (on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood). He was looking for somebody when he first opened Tableaux’s, so I sent over a cd.You are in such good shape. How do you stay that way?I’m a very happy person, I’m overly happy. (laughs) I’m a “Little Mary Sunshine.” I think I’m disgusting to a lot of people. I just have a very good life. Everybody has problems, but I seem to get through them and move on. I haven’t had anything that held me down or held me back.What about marriage?I’ve had several…four! I am not good at marriage. I don’t do well at it, and I’m happy not being married. I’m great on honeymoons and lousy at marriage. I hear you. (Laughs) So that is a major character flaw. I don’t stand by my man. (mutual laughter)
That’s funny because I would think that with your temperment you’d be so easy to get along with.I’m awful. My last husband made a statement that really hit home, I thought, he’s right, he said it didn’t matter whether I was with anyone or not, that I was still alone. He’s right. I’m a loner, and I like it that way.Do you have any regrets?No, I think regrets are a waste of time. I’ve had very nice husbands; I would never put them down. We’re all friends, I just can’t live with them. I have a wonderful son, he’s 36, a computer consultant. His name is Adam Marino, his dad was Hawaiian. You manage to enjoy your life. How do you do that?Some people may say I’m in denial, but I don’t deal with bad things, I just have a good time. Even in the 50′s when we’d all go trooping into a coffee shop-I had a lot of white friends-we’d order something and they’d say well, we can’t serve her! Well, we’d all walk out and then we’d break up laughing.How do you feel about the difference between then and now?I feel that there has been a lot of progress. I have seen a lot of history and have been able to enjoy myself along the way.
Some examples?When they had the segregated clubs, there were black clubs that had the greatest music in the world. Once everything was integrated, those clubs disappeared. Because?Everything became integrated, so, the people who went to those clubs started going to where anything was integrated; and it also meant that a lot of black music went into concerts, or whatever. By the mid 60s the whole black club scene disappeared.
Influences, favorite musicians?I always list Jay McShann as my very favorite piano player, and when I was a little girl and still taking classical music, he used to walk tenths; actually, he still does. He’s still alive. I would stretch my little fingers and by the time I was twelve, I could walk the tenth. Right now I have a big groove, because of the stretch.I noticed that reach-it’s amazing. You’ve been playing for a long time.Started at four or five years old. There was a piano that got passed down from my maternal grandmother…a wonderful Chickering grand. My maternal grandfather gave it to my grandmother on their first wedding anniversary, and that was also my mother’s birthday, so they gave it to my mother and I sort of inherited it. It was a wonderful piano.Passed down from generation to generation. Was your mother a great player, too?(Laughing) No. Nobody could play it except me. My grandmother couldn’t play it either.OK, so passed down and skipped over from generation to generation…it was obviously meant for you. And they encouraged you.How about forced me…That’s interesting, forced you. These non-musicians noticed that you had talent.I didn’t want to take piano; my teachers told them I was talented. Every year I’d learn a few pieces for recital . . .it was the beginning.And now . . .It’s still the beginning. (that laugh) Every day is the beginning.
Betty Bryant, Iteration + (Bry-Mar Music)
Born in Kansas City, Betty Bryant began playing the piano when she was four. After graduating from college in the early 1950s, she began playing and singing jazz and standards professionally in Topeka and Kansas City. She has been a fixture in Los Angeles clubs since she moved out here in 1955 and is still playing regularly.
Iteration + consists of 14 songs drawn from her previous recordings Come Laugh With Me, What’s The Point, No Regrets and Together plus three recently recorded selections. Ms. Bryant is joined by bassist Tomas Gargano, several different drummers (including Kenny Elliot and James Gadson) and, on some of the tunes, Robert Kyle (who produced this reissue) on tenor or soprano.
The music is a consistent delight.
Whether sounding bluesy, joyful, sassy or all three, Betty Bryant is heard throughout at the top of her form. She makes such songs as “Black Coffee” “St. Louis Blues,” “When Did .You Leave Heaven,’ “You’re My Thrill”. and “Until The Real Thing’ Comes Alorig” sound fresh and lively. In ,addition to the well-known songs, she also performs such obscurities as “Scratch,” “Keep Him Away From Me,” and “Grease In My Gravy” plus her “Where Did Tomorrow Go,” “Come And Laugh With Me” and “It’s Hard To Say Goodbye.” Everything works well.
Iteration + serves as a perfect introduction to Betty Bryant’s music; which is always swinging, soulful and. quite enjoyable. It is recommended and available from www.bettybzyant.com. Be sure to see the ageless and legendary Betty Bryant when she appears in local clubs.
“Betty Bryant is absolutely amazing and deserves worldwide recognition.”
Peter Kuller, Radio Adelaide, Australia
“Call it a rare evening of song, performed with musical alacrity.”
Don Heckman, International Review of Music