In jazz, the advice to "go for the brothers" when putting together a rhythm section does not always have racial connotations. Tommy Bryant was one of the great bassists in this genre, more reliable than a certain large clock in London, his tone present in an equally towering manner. His brother, pianist Ray Bryant, is the family's real Big Ben in terms of fame, but there is also Len Bryant, both a singer and drummer. All the brothers Bryant learned much from their choir director mother. There was also a singing, piano-playing sister in the Bryant brood who did not pursue a professional career.
Thomas Bryant, who was credited as Tom Bryant in certain situations such as his many recordings with gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, began studying the bass at the age of 12. He began gigging in small combos in Philadelphia, including the band of Billy Krechmer. Bryant joined the fine bandleader, multi-instrumentalist, and composer Elmer Snowden in the late '40s, staying for several years and then playing a different kind of bassline in the service of Uncle Sam. He came out of the Army in 1956 determined to be a bandleader. While he kept a trio going in which he also vocalized, he was mostly known for his playing with better-known leaders such as the great swing drummer Jo Jones and trumpeter Charlie Shavers.