Alexander Bryson – The Alexander Bryson Trio
(Hardbop Records. Album Review by Lavender Sutton)
Pianist Alexander Bryson is releasing his debut album after having spent time in New York City getting his Masters at the New School of Music. Having been back in the UK since 2016, the timing of this release seems well calculated and thought through, rather than precipitate.
A recent interview with Bryson (by Brian Priestley HERE) explains the context in which he ended up here, after studying classical piano at both Trinity and the New School. It seems that most of his jazz chops come from pure immersion – on the band stand, learning from jazz elders like Barry Harris.
This debut is an excellent example of what such real-world experiences can generate: A collection of well known, but lesser done, bebop tunes, with variety and interest and lots of room for interpretation.
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Bryson has found two fine accomplices in Jeremy Brown, bass and Matt Fishwick, drums. So, whereas there might be no fancy bells and whistles, no horns or complex arrangements…the album is full of intrigue. The expertise of these musicians together is enough.
Lee Morgan’s composition, Mogie, kicks things off at a good clip and gives Bryson a chance to set the tone. Con Alma by Dizzy Gillespie has a richness about it brought by the piano, adding texture to the melody and hits in the arrangement, before the solos fall into a natural swing feel.
In the Still of the Night is a popular Cole Porter tune, and the pedal introduction to it drives the melody forward (again, at quite a good clip!) and gives Bryson lots of opportunities to add familiar little quotes and rebuttals against the drums.
You’re Mine, You brings back the richness previously mentioned from Bryson’s chord structures, paired with Fishwick’s brushes and cymbal textures, this lovely ballad is beautiful and touching.
Chicken and Dumplin’s gets toes tapping and heads bobbing. A real taste of true “American Home Cooking” in the jazz sense. This must be inspired by some of the great legends Bryson would have been listening to in the jazz clubs of NYC. The soli section that trades with Fishwick on drums fits the playful nature of this tune and puts a smile on the listener’s face.
This continues with the slow, stompy blues, After Hours. Bryson dives in full-fledged. It’s fun to listen to him utilise the low and high range of the piano in each verse, almost as voices in mid-argument, there’s a story being told.
Sweet Pumpkin, made famous by Blue Mitchell, is a happy melody that skips along at a nice pace and Neal Hefti’s L’il Darlin’ brings an equally sweet taste of nostalgia to close off this collection.
Bryson’s song choices and band-leadership don’t overpower, giving himself, Brown and Fishwick equal chances to respond, collaborate and ultimately produce a truly impressive take on some jazz classics.
Album launch: 21 March 2022 at 8pm, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean St. BOOKINGS
Categories: Album reviews