Thoroughly recommended.

1950sSelf-Release

Sam Braysher (alto saxophone); Matyas Gayer (piano); Dario Di Leece (double bass); Steve Brown (drums)
Recorded 10 & 11 May, 2023

Saxophonist Sam Braysher is like a breath of fresh air. He has an alto sound that doesn’t sound like anyone else, and is a throwback to the classic jazz of the 1950s with a contemporary twist. His playing swings hard and he has a lovely way of phrasing ballads that is most compelling, and he is not afraid to serve these up in spades. He has developed and improvisatory style that is always melodic and tells a story in a manner that is not heard that often anymore.

With two previous albums to his credit featuring an international cast, for this recording he has put together a London based quartet that captures the essence of his style of playing instantly, and know how to get to the heart of the material.

Once again Braysher has stuck true to his quest to bring back to life some lesser-known gems from the Great American Song Book, and in a slight deviation from that path has chosen to feature the music of Kurt Weill, and include some of Weill’s music that predates the composer’s relocation from Berlin to New York.

The opening ‘Here I’ll Stay’ gets things off to a swinging start with impressive solos from both Braysher and pianist Matyas Gayer, and the altoist shows off his bebop chops on ‘Ships Adrift’. The only original of the set, Braysher ensures that it stays within the overall theme of the album by writing the tricky melody over the chords to Weill’s ‘Speak Low’ and thus creates a fine vehicle for the quartet to get their teeth into.

Dropping the tempo down to a ballad feel is ‘Liebeslied’ from Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera from 1928. A beautiful melody from Weill’s most famous work that allows Braysher to show off his gorgeous alto sound to the full.

Keeping the music fresh throughout, Braysher throws in two delightful duets featuring one apiece with pianist Gayer on ‘Materl’ from The Berlin Requiem with the altoist adopting a very straight tone and the rather more buoyant ‘Bilbao-Song’ from the 1929 musical Happy Song with bassist Dario Di Leece.

As many of Weill’s American compositions have words from lyricists Ogden Nash, Sam Coslow and Langston Hughes among others (and all featured here), the saxophonist brings in Sara Dowling to add her exceptional vocals to three tracks. Dowling brings a touch of nostalgia in her phrasing that gives the music an authenticity and sense of the times in which they were composed. She is simply flawless on the ballads ‘This Is New’ and the seldom heard ‘What Good Would the Moon Be’, that eases into a gentle swing accompanied by Steve Brown’s sensitive drumming; and takes great delight in the lyrics of ‘The Right Guy For Me’.

Once again in an imaginatively programmed set, Braysher sets out his stall as a gifted and melodic improviser with an ear for a good tune and what to do with it, and I for one am looking forward to hearing more forgotten gems that the altoist may come across. Thoroughly recommended.