I first met Steve Bryant in 1995 when I auditioned for Outcry in Red Bank, New Jersey. I couldn’t have predicted that we’d still be friends in 2021. That speaks to who Steve is as a man, and it also touches on what I heard when I listened to RED 123. It’s one thing to say Steve is a great player, or that the guitar tone on “Folk Song” is really cool. It’s entirely another thing to hear emotion when someone picks up an instrument.  

In a story called “Sonny’s Blues,” James Baldwin says this of the jazz musician: “The man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air.” To feel something and express it through music—to impose order on it—is a type of magic that only happens when people have what we might call soul. That’s exactly what brings life to Steve’s music and RED 123: soul.  

It's possible that someone can be born with the innate qualities that lead to that type of playing, but it takes work, too.

Steve played French Horn as a kid in elementary, middle and high school. He’d fallen in love with the guitar by middle school when a cousin taught him some chords. An obsession began with the usual round of high school rock bands, and it moved into jazz with lessons from a cat named Vinny Corrao.

He auditioned for the Navy band when high school ended. He spent six years playing guitar for the government—a uniform and more jazz. Then, rock and roll and Outcry. Obsession. Thousands of hours. 

Hotel rooms and rock and roll tours can be a grind, but it’s necessary for me to get personal again. When you room with somebody on a tour, and when you’re together 24/7, special bonds can be formed. Does it matter to the music lover that Steve is articulate and thoughtful? Does it matter that he’s a good listener and a valuable friend? Maybe it ought to matter; it’s those qualities that shape the music of RED 123. 

 We grow as musicians and people by encountering joy and pain, and there’s a certain perspective that comes with nursing your father through recovery from surgery while a pandemic rages all around you. That is Steve Bryant. That is the music of RED 123. I swear, you can hear it all in the music.  

Steve Bryant was ready to make this record because of everything he’s seen and done. Guitarists can woodshed and practice until their fingers bleed. But that’s just the technical stuff. You have to live and feel and think—you have to consider life to be a real player. You might take my word for it: that’s Steve Bryant’s soul in the music of RED 123. But maybe you ought to hear it for yourself. 

I’ll think you’ll come away knowing just a bit more about Steve, and maybe a little more about yourself, too.  

Gerry Stanek 

Greensboro, NC, March 2021