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Bebop Spoken There

Vadim Neselovskyi, Professor of Jazz Piano, Berklee College of Music: “Every pianist has to deal with a very complex left-hand part at some point. This is the essential pianistic experience – to split your brain into two halves and execute two very different tasks at the same time.” – (Down Beat September 2017).

Roscoe Mitchell: “To me, improvisation is trying to improve your skills so you can make these on-point compositional decisions. That takes practice.” – (Down Beat September 2017)

Archives

Today Friday September 22

Scarborough Jazz Festival - Day one of three.
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Afternoon
Rendezvous Jazz - The Black Horse, Front St., Monkseaton, Whitley Bay NE25 8DP. 1pm. Free.
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Zoe Gilby Quartet - Town Hall, Market Place, Bishop Auckland DL14 7NP. 1pm. £5.
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Evening
Kentucky Cowtippers - Billy Bootleggers, 28 Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free.
Sean Noonan: Memorable Sticks - Jazz Café, 25 Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8pm. £8/£6.
Backyard Rhythm Orchestra + Monkey Puzzle - o2 Academy, Newcastle. Doors 6:30pm. Curfew 10pm.
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Dave Newton & Dean Stockdale - Traveller's Rest, 2 West Auckland Rd., Cockerton, Darlington DL3 9ER. 8:30pm. £10.
Smokin' Spitfires - Forum Music Centre, Borough Rd., Darlington DL1 1SG. 7:30pm. £10.
Steve Bone - Al Forno, 81 Skinnergate, Darlington DL3 7LX. 7pm.
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Interview with Sam Braysher by Gail Tasker.















(BSH  are pleased to post this interview with saxist Sam Braysher by guest writer Gail Tasker. Braysher's duo album with pianist Michael Kanan was reviewed here on August 1 and is scheduled for release on Friday, Sept. 1. The album launch takes place at the Vortex in London on Sept. 13 - Lance - Photos courtesy of John Rogers)
Where are you from? Where did the enthusiasm for music, and jazz in particular, come from?
I grew up in Dereham, Norfolk. I started having recorder lessons when I was seven before moving onto the saxophone when I went to the local high school at 11. I'd wanted to play the saxophone from quite a young age, for some reason, but starting on the recorder was really helpful in terms of laying the groundwork for reading music and things like that. I think when you play the saxophone you tend to end up playing some more jazzy repertoire, and I always enjoyed improvising. I had a local piano teacher, Jonathan Dodd, who really got me into jazz and taught me a lot, and I also played in the Norwich Students' Jazz Orchestra. It was all quite a gradual process that led to me deciding to study jazz and try to do it as a career, although I didn't have much understanding of exactly what that would entail at that point.

Who is the teacher who’s left the most lasting impression?
I can't really name just one. I've been lucky to have had lots of helpful and inspiring teachers along the way. In Norfolk I learnt from (among others) Jonathan Dodd, Hillary Adcock, Cathy Brooks and Josh Daniels. At Guildhall I had lessons with Martin Hathaway, Christian Forshaw, Malcolm Miles, Jean Toussaint, Mark Hanslip and Carlos Lopez-Real. I've also taken a few one-off lessons since graduating with some more high profile American players, which have left an impression: Lee Konitz, Dick Oatts, Harry Allen and Chris Cheek.

Who are your saxophone heroes?
Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Lester Young, Lee Konitz, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Joe Henderson. Lots of others!

You had a period when you were interested in the Tristano, Marsh, Konitz thing. Did you grow out of it, or what happened?
I still love that music and am certainly heavily influenced by it, but I suppose I don't listen to those guys as much as I did when I was at college. At this point, I'm more excited by the music of Bird, Rollins, Monk, Bud Powell or Lester Young. I think it's fair to say that music associated with the Tristano school doesn't tend to place the highest importance on the role of the rhythm section, and my favourite Tristano-related recordings are ones that feature swinging bassists or drummers who are not from that school: Konitz with Elvin on Motion; the Live at the Half Note recording with Paul Motian and Jimmy Garrison; Warne Marsh with 'Philly' Joe and Paul Chambers; Tristano with Art Taylor.
Interestingly, Michael Kanan was a big Tristano disciple, studying with Harvey Diamond and Sal Mosca (who both learnt from Tristano himself), before (I think it's fair to say) rejecting that way of playing to some extent. In Ethan Iverson's liner notes for Michael's album Convergence, he writes about how, after being immersed in that world for a long time, Kanan sought out 'different elixirs' in the form of pianists like Monk and Ahmed Jamal, playing more by ear and exploring 'the integrity of the beat'.

For people who don’t know Michael Kanan, tell us a bit more about him.
Michael is a pianist who lives in New York City. He is probably best known as an accompanist of singers: he plays with Jane Monheit and previously worked extensively with the late Jimmy Scott, but he has also played with great instrumentalists including Kurt Rosenwinkel, Peter Bernstein, Jorge Rossy and Ted Brown. He has a delicate touch on the piano and is highly tasteful, swinging and melodic. He really plays what he hears and is a big expert on the American Songbook. I believe Jimmy Rowles and Hank Jones are among his favourite pianists. He's also an incredibly nice man!

This album has an international aspect to it. What led you to working with Michael Kanan? How did you first meet? How did you get to the point where you’re making an album together?
I met Michael on my first trip to NYC in 2014, although I was already familiar with some of his recordings. He kept in touch and we played informally in London when he visited London a couple of times the following year on tour with Jane Monheit. I then took part in a summer school run by Jorge Rossy in Barcelona, which Michael teaches on each year alongside people like Tootie Heath, Ben Street, Peter Bernstein and Chris Cheek. So after all that I felt that I knew him fairly well and that we hopefully had some musical interests in common, so I asked him to record with me and, thankfully, he was up for doing it.

The other international aspect of this release is that you are recording for a label based in Barcelona. How did that happen?


Fresh Sound New Talent was set up by Jordi Pujol to document the scene of young jazz musicians in the 1990s centred around Smalls Jazz Club in New York. I really enjoyed a lot of those albums by people like Chris Cheek, Ethan Iverson, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Albert Sanz, particularly when I was at music college, and those CDs all seemed to have quite a strong aesthetic quality: cool artwork and music that was contemporary whilst still being connected to the jazz tradition. Michael Kanan also recorded two fantastic trio albums for FSNT (Convergence and The Gentleman is a Dope, both with Ben Street and Tim Pleasant) so I'm sure the fact that Jordi was already a fan of Michael's made it a bit easier for me to access them, but I'm very grateful to Jordi and FSNT for the opportunity.

This idea of ‘the composer’s intention’ seems important to you and Kanan. Can you explain more about this?
As tunes become part of the standard repertoire for jazz musicians, they tend to become warped as different musicians interpret them, which is of course great! But I think that, at least with the melody, it is useful to take something at least fairly close to what the composer wrote as your starting point for interpretation and improvisation, rather than another jazz musician's version. A good example is Irving Berlin's 'Remember'. I love the version on Hank Mobley's Soul Station but it's almost an entirely different composition to what Berlin wrote. That's his interpretation, and it's amazing, but if you look up that tune in a real book now, it'll probably be a transcription of that recording that you see. Michael Kanan is really into checking out the original sheet music for songs like that, and he's influenced me in that respect. Not that it's anything that anyone needs to get too worked up over, of course!

How did you and Kanan choose the tunes for the album?
We tried to go for a balanced selection of tunes by some of our favourite composers, including songs from the American Songbook (by Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Victor Young etc.) and jazz compositions (by musicians like Duke Ellington, Nat 'King' Cole and Tadd Dameron). I really enjoy discovering tunes that aren't so well known or aren't often played by jazz musicians, so we tried to go slightly off the beaten track in that respect. There's also one original composition of mine, which is a contrafact (a new melody written over an existing chord sequence) on Cole Porter's 'Love For Sale'.

There’s a nostalgic undertone to the album, like with In Love In Vain. What do you imagine when you play these tunes?
Nothing too deep(!) - mostly just musical stuff, to be honest - but I do try to get familiar with the lyrics when it comes to a song like that, so that I at least have a sense of what the song is about. With that particular number there's a beautiful orchestral arrangement that accompanies the song in its first incarnation in the film Centennial Summer, so I watched a YouTube clip of that a lot.

What do you have against bass and drums?
Nothing, of course! Most of the music I listen to is jazz that includes bass and drums, and when I do a gig under my own name it's usually a trio of alto, bass and drums. Also when Michael comes to the UK for our album release tour we'll be joined on four of the eight gigs by the wonderful Dario Di Lecce and Steve Brown on bass and drums respectively. That said, I do enjoy playing in smaller combos like duos and trios: you can have a more direct musical interaction with the other musician(s) and I enjoy the challenge of keeping the texture varied despite the limited instrumentation.

Are there any sax and piano duos that you are taking inspiration from?
There were a few saxophone/piano albums I listened to as I approached the recording with Michael: Stan Getz with Kenny Barron, Joe Lovano with Hank Jones, Al Cohn with Jimmy Rowles, Joel Frahm with Brad Mehldau, Martin Speake with Ethan Iverson. I also checked out duo albums that feature other instrumental combinations: Ella Fitzgerald with Ellis Larkins, Ruby Braff with Ellis Larkins, Lee Konitz with Red Mitchell.

What kind of room is the Drawing Room in Brooklyn?
The Drawing Room is actually run by Michael and his wife, Stephanie Grieg. It's a performance and rehearsal space, rather than a recording studio, with a nice acoustic and a nice Steinway piano.

There is quite an intimate sound to the recording; you can really feel the keys and hear the breath passing through the saxophone. Were you inspired by any albums/labels with this sound?

I liked the idea of a more old-school, lo-fi approach to recording: just a few microphones in a room and no post-recording edits. Neal Miner recorded us, and was a generous and encouraging presence throughout: he is an amazing double bass player (he plays in Michael's current trio and also in Jane Monheit's band) but also has a remote recording setup and his own record label, Gutstring Records. And he's made some really cool jazz documentaries, including this one about the drummer Jimmy Wormworth. (Ed: A must see documentary)

Who is behind the cover art, and what does it represent?
Mariano Gil did the album artwork, which I'm really happy with. Mariano is an Argentinian illustrator living in Brooklyn who did the artwork for quite a few of the Fresh Sound New Talent albums that I mentioned previously, by people like Chris Cheek, Albert Sanz and Ethan Iverson. I don't think he'd done anything for the label for a while, but when FSNT said they'd like to release the album I had the idea of tracking down and asking him.
Gail Tasker.
(Our thanks to Gail and to LondonJazzNews for making this possible - Lance)

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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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