Album review

Sam Braysher Trio – ‘Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man’

Sam Braysher Trio – Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man
(Unit Records UTR 4951. Album review by Adrian Pallant)

The bold, solid colours of renowned Argentinian artist (and musician) Mariano Gil introduce Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man – a new recording from London-based alto saxophonist Sam Braysher in an essentially chordless trio with double bassist Tom Farmer and drummer/percussionist Jorge Rossy.

Farmer is perhaps best known for his role in vibrant, progressive UK quartet Empirical, while Rossy’s international reputation comes from his work with artists including Brad Mehldau, Ethan Iverson, Joshua Redman and Steve Swallow. Braysher, a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music, cites Sonny Rollins and Lee Konitz amongst his influences and has performed with John Warren, Barry Green, Elaine Delmar and Sara Dowling, as well as the London Jazz Orchestra and Jorge Rossy’s REBOP quintet. This is the follow-up to his 2017 duo album, Golden Earrings, with pianist Michael Kanan.

Recorded at Rossy’s studio in Begues, Spain, Braysher’s selection of ten numbers – amongst them, familiar movie/stage-show melodies from the likes of Rodgers & Hammerstein and George & Ira Gershwin – is complemented by an original of his own. The programme, on the whole, paints an image of an intimate, sun-warmed amble through the saxophonist’s favourite tunes, opening with a rendition of Dexter Gordon’s For Regulars Only that ripples with imaginative alto lines. And while the beginning of Carmichael/Loesser evergreen Heart and Soul may feel a little pedestrian, again it’s Braysher’s improvisatory flair which shines, as it does in the development of Jobim’s One Note Samba (Samba de uma Nota Só).

Farmer and Rossy are choice collaborators, the latter laying aqueous vibraphone below the lazy-Sunday-afternoon phrases of Irene Kitching’s Some Other Spring; and Farmer’s buoyant bass is integral to Richard Rodgers’ The Sweetest Sounds. Braysher’s easygoing soloing features in Walter Donaldson’s Little White Lies (though missing the usual fluidity of the lyric) and gambols to the perky swing and cheeky, percussive interjections of the Gershwins’ Shall We Dance – one of its lines provides the album title. Two miniatures – George Gershwin’s Walking the Dog and a Reflection from Disney movie ‘Mulan’ – are also included, alongside Rodgers & Hammerstein’s This Nearly Was Was Mine (‘South Pacific’) in quite different guise, its slow waltz reimagined with marimba and arco bass.

Making the greatest impression is Sam Braysher’s sparky composition, Pintxos – based on the chord sequence of Cole Porter’s ‘From This Moment On’ – which turns out to be a tasty little number, mostly for the following assessment. Throughout this recording’s interpretations of much-loved and lesser-known repertoire classics – which, due to the pandemic, are yet to be explored in a live setting – are signs that the saxophonist’s creativity may occasionally be constrained (the liner notes speak of “consulting the original sheet music where possible and learning the lyrics”, along with the challenge to “not feel boxed in by the harmony and the form”). This might also account for a sometimes straight melodic delivery, as in Jobim’s repeated ‘one note’ figure or the familiar theme of This Nearly Was Mine, where a lyrical shaping or vibrato could reveal more of his artistic personality. The most exciting takeaway, then, is that Braysher really can craft and revel in a tune/arrangement of his own. Pintxos is a delight, brimming with confidence and joie de vivre as he rolls through its strutting swing, quirky intervals and slick ornamentation – those balmy alto improvisations even have echoes of Paul Desmond. More than anything, it offers the tantalising notion of how engaging an album filled with his original music could be – an appetising prospect, indeed.

Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man is released on 22 April 2021.

LINK: Sam Braysher – Feature about the new trio album release

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