Born Royal G. Bryant on November 25, 1929 in Huntington, West Virginia, Rusty Bryan cut his teeth on jazz music as a child in Columbus, Ohio. Earning his stripes backing Tiny Grimes and Stomp Gordon, Bryant took the lead with his own band, the Carolyn Club Band, in 1951. Bryant and the boys signed to Dot Records in 1954, but after his contract was up, they band moved back home to Columbus to play local shows, picking up gigs here and there with Nancy Wilson, Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Charles Kynard, and Sonny Phillips and Groove Holmes. This led him back into the national spotlight when he inked a deal with Prestige Records. One of the last 7-inch singles Bryant released under the Prestige label was the soul-jazz masterpiece “Fire Eater” b/w “The Hooker.”
The Concord Music Group is breathing new life into the Bryan single as part of their The Jazz Dispensary Top Shelf Series. The album-centric program focuses on delivering the best possible listening experience, from the quality of the music to the sonic purity of the pressing. Highlighting complete original albums from the Jazz Dispensary vaults with a focus on rare and previously unavailable titles, each album is pressed on 180-gram vinyl and packaged with that old-school look.
Backed by Idris Muhammad (drums); Wilbert Longmire (guitar); and both Bill Mason and Leon Spencer Jr. on (organ), ‘Fire Eater’ houses four songs featuring thick grooves, emotional soul and smooth jazz. The title tracks kick off the vinyl and spins for more than nine minutes giving the listener a varied pallet of instrumentation filled with swagger. The second track, “Free At Last,” clocks in at over eight minutes and delivers with guitar swing, soft drum fills, an organ solo, and complex horn playing from Bryan.t Flipping over the wax, you get the B-side “The Hooker.” At nearly 10 minutes, this song plays out like a gritty night on the seedy side of New York City where the ladies are out to make a buck and the flat foots on the beat are out there to stop them. The song is equal parts sensual and dangerous. Bryant’s horn playing really shines on this one. To close out the album is “Mister S.” The band is back in their ’70s groove and swing with upbeat tempos and sassy breakdowns capping off a delightful reissue.