CD REVIEW: Sam Braysher with Michael Kanan – Golden Earrings

Sam Braysher with Michael Kanan – Golden Earrings
(Fresh Sound New Talent FSNT 1007. CD Review by Jane Mann)

This album from Barcelona-based record company Fresh Sound New Talent is the debut recording of young English alto saxophonist Sam Braysher. He has teamed up with a sensational New York pianist Michael Kanan, a famous accompanist and arranger to starry singers like Jane Monheit.

Together Braysher and Kanan play some old favourites and some of the less well-known tunes from the Great American Songbook and there is one original Braysher tune too.

Their approach to these old tunes is to go back to early recordings and the original sheet music. They consider what was actually written, and study what was actually intended by the composers, rather than later interpretations. As Braysher explains:

“Like most jazz musicians of my generation, I have been introduced to this type of repertoire through listening to and playing jazz, rather than growing up with it as pop music in the way that, say Sonny Rollins would have done…..I have tried to access the “composers’ intention” – something that Michael Kanan, an expert in this area, talks about. We tried to use this as our starting point for interpretation and improvisation, rather than existing jazz versions.” (see also our interview – link below)

The result is fresh, melodic and entertaining. They play as a duo rather than soloist and accompanist. They play harmoniously together, listening and responding with an evident rapport. The music feels collaborative, the tunes are stated sensitively, and the arrangements are inventive. Every tune has a satisfying if sometimes unexpected resolution.

I was lucky to hear them play on the album launch tour. They performed in the lovely Tudor recital room at the Anteros Arts Foundation in Braysher’s home town of Norwich. It’s an intimate space with a very nice antique Steinway baby grand, no amplification necessary, and they went down a storm. The pair appeared completely at ease, had no fixed play list, and decided which tune and in which key to play before each song. They performed some of the tunes from the album, but gave the impression that their repertoire was vast. It seemed that they could have continued with new interpretations of great tunes by the likes of Rodgers and Hart, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Nat King Cole and even Charlie Parker indefinitely.

The combination of Braysher’s airy sweet tone, and Kanan’s rhythmic elegance makes for a lovely, unhurried and yet swinging set. They both play with precision and there were passages of intricate counterpoint, which I particularly enjoyed. The CD captures this freshness of approach and something of the energy and empathy which flows between these two great artists.

Track listing:

Dancing in the Dark; Cardboard; Irving Berlin Waltz Medley: What’ll I Do – Always – Remember; BSP (Braysher); All Too Soon; In Love in Vain; The Scene Is Clean; Beautiful Moons Ago; Golden Earrings; Way Down Yonder in New Orleans

Sam Braysher is playing with Kansas Smitty’s and the John Warren Nonet as part of the EFG London Jazz festival in November, and with Barry Green in December.


Interview with Sam Braysher
Sam Braysher’s website and tour dates
Michael Kanan’s website

Categories: miscellaneous

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