"Compositional smarts and a beckoning tone... that brim with passion and yearning...Bryden's thoughtful originals ace the pack" ★★★★
Andy Cowan - MOJO
"[A] blend of Modern Jazz classicism and elements that reside far nearer to the current moment...flush in gorgeousness courtesy of Bryden’s tenor"
Joseph Neff - The Vinyl District
A new album available on Circavision Productions.
Ben Bryden - tenor saxophone and compositions
Phil Robson - guitar
Desmond White - bass
Raj Jayaweera - drums
special guest Steven Delannoye - tenor saxophone
Produced by Ben Bryden.
Recorded at Bunker Studios, Brooklyn on June 7th 2018, engineered by Aaron Nevezie.
Mixed by Eivind Opsvik at Greenwood Underground.
Mastered by Brian Shankar Adler at Circavision Productions.
This year marks tenor saxophonist Ben Bryden’s tenth anniversary in New York. It’s a milestone symbolic of having found a home and a career on this side of the Atlantic, but also the yearning distance from his birthplace in Scotland. It is this that forms the central theme of his latest release Figure of Eight (Circavision Productions) - which describes the constant pull of place, like the ebb and flow of the Atlantic - from one home in Scotland to another in New York.
After graduating from Manhattan School of Music in 2011, the past decade has seen Ben Bryden perform with a multitude of admired New York jazz musicians - Will Vinson, Ben Wendel, Chris Lightcap and the legendary Les Paul - at many of the city’s most beloved venues of past and present - Cornelia Street Cafe, Zinc Bar, The Bar Next Door and Le Poisson Rouge.
But for all his New York kudos, it is his musical upbringing across the pond that he keeps coming back to for this project:
“I grew up on a steady diet of diverse yet complimentary music - The Band, Randy Newman and Joni Mitchell from my Dad, through to Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon from my Mum, with The Beatles as a kind of central totem. For me music was always about strong melodies, regardless of the genre.”
While Figure of Eight is aesthetically a jazz album, it draws upon the lyricism of Scottish folk music, the smouldering mood of post-rock, the overt energy of indie and the personability of the singer-songwriter. As a result Figure of Eight is an expression of this musical wanderlust - how far flung and seemingly disparate ideas and influences feed back into one another to create a coherent and connected whole.
Largely a quartet record, Ben Bryden’s tenor saxophone is complemented by fellow long term New York transplants - Australians Desmond White on bass and Rajiv Jayaweera on drums, while there is a cameo from long-time collaborator Steven Delannoye on tenor saxophone. It is however the inclusion of fellow British ex-pat Phil Robson on guitar that is most notable:
“I actually wrote four of the songs from this album on guitar, lyrics included.” Bryden reveals. “Guitar is a musical release for me - it’s an instrument I play for sheer enjoyment to get away from the hustle and grind of music, and it is where a lot of my ideas come from. So it was only natural that the quartet would be completed by guitar.”
The album also acts as a cross section of life events that influenced a transatlantic musical journey. “The Cold Shoulder” was written as a fifteen-year-old for his high school rock band of the same name. “Goodbye Lullaby” was a requiem for a lapsed long distance relationship. “The Art of Fielding” references an acquired love for baseball.
Some references are more obscure, (“A Respectful Salute to the Socially Relevant” honours friend and guitarist Reinier Baas and his album The More Socially Relevant Jazz Music Ensemble); while others are more overt, such as the angsty reworking of Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman”. And some are purely personal, such as “Scarista”, the name of a Scottish beach that holds particular significance for the composer. While each individual track can be taken as a snapshot of a different tangent of life or musical exploration, in combination they form a programmatic and palindromic story arc.
“Ten years in New York evaporates in a flash - It’s easy to feel like you’ve been standing still while the city moves around you,” Bryden explains. “In a sense that’s true of how I see being a composer - things are constantly moving and changing, influences and ideas are filtering in and out, but at the centre, the same core identity remains.”