London-based jazz saxophonist Sam Braysher will be teaming up once again with American pianist Michael Kanan for a gig at the Verdict Jazz Club in Brighton on Sunday, January 20.
The last time Michael joined Sam was for the launch tour for his debut album, Golden Earrings (Fresh Sound New Talent Records), which came out in September 2017. They did eight gigs in seven days; now Michael is over for another nine, including Brighton once again.
“The response to the album was nice. It was good. It was all a learning curve, and I think the main thing I learnt as an independent artist was to try to wring as much as I possibly can out of everything that I do, to try to make the most of everything. We had some nice reviews, in the jazz specific press and a few nationals and also a few international reviews.”
With Michael the other side of the Atlantic, promotion for the album had to be fairly concentrated. Sam is delighted now to be getting a second bite at it.
“I grew up in Dereham, Norfolk and played the saxophone in school and also in the Norwich Students’ Jazz Orchestra. I gradually became more interested in jazz through my teenage years and went to study jazz saxophone at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama when I was 18 in 2007. Since graduating I’ve been freelancing in London and doing a fairly wide range of jazz gigs.
“I met Michael on my first trip to New York in 2014 although I already knew his playing from a few records. I’m a big fan of his playing: he’s incredibly tasteful and has a beautiful touch. He is melodic, swinging and really plays what he hears. I think we like a lot of the same musicians: Lester Young, Charlie Parker, musicians from the Tristano school, Hank Jones, Ahmed Jamal, Thelonious Monk.
“Michael is also incredibly nice, generous and encouraging. We kept in touch and we played a bit informally when he was in London a few times in 2015 on tour with Jane Monheit. I then took part in a summer school run by Jorge Rossy near Barcelona, which Michael teaches on every year alongside people like Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, Ben Street, Chris Cheek and Peter Bernstein.
“So after all that I felt like I knew him quite well after all that, and decided to ask him to do a duo recording with me. I really like playing in small combos like duos and trios, and I know Michael does too: you can have a more focused, conversational musical interaction, and I enjoy the challenge of keeping the texture varied despite the limited instrumentation.
“The recording process itself was fairly old school: just a few microphones in a room with a nice acoustic and a nice piano (Michael’s own The Drawing Room in Brooklyn, New York), one quick rehearsal and no edits.
“The repertoire is mostly slightly lesser-known tunes from the Great American Songbook and jazz canon – including compositions by Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Victor Young, Nat ‘King’ Cole and Irving Berlin – plus there’s one original composition by me. I really enjoy digging a bit deeper and trying to find tunes to interpret which are slightly off the beaten track, and Michael is a real expert on the American Songbook in particular, so it was great to utilise his knowledge in that respect.
“It was fantastic to play with someone of Michael’s calibre. He’s played with people like Jane Monheit, Jimmy Scott, Peter Bernstein, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ted Brown, so I can’t wait to get out there and get stuck into playing in the UK with him again.”