Thursday, January 7, 2021

Upcoming Live-streamed Show, Podcast, Reeds and Intonation, Upcoming Books!

 Happy New Year everybody!

Hopefully, 2021 will be a heck of a lot better than 2020, though that's yet to be seen. I know it's been quite a while since I updated the blog, and now I've got a bunch of exciting stuff to put on here.

New Sextet: Sound Expression
I'm super excited to debut my new group, Sound Expression. We'll be playing a live-streamed show on January 16th, at 7:30 MT. You can tune in live, or you can watch the show after the fact. You'll find more info here: https://csi.veeps.com/stream/events/0b3cd24d607c


Interview Doug Stone's Tenor Talk Podcast
A great saxophonist and my good friend, Doug Stone, has been doing a podcast on jazz saxophone. A couple of months back I was on the show and we had a lot of fun talking about my album/novel project, saxophone sound, and technique. You can check it out here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/803027/6021907-41-ben-britton

Reeds and Intonation
One of the bane's of some saxophone players is intonation in the high register, and that has definitely been a challenge for me in the past. In non-beginners, the most common problem I hear is sharp intonation in the upper register, and it's interesting to see the difference for some players even on regular B versus B an octave higher. Sometimes, there can be close to a quarter step difference between these two notes without an effort to keep the pitch down. I recently discovered that reed strength can be a major contributor to that. 

Playing on a reed that is too soft for your setup and chops can result in a reed that is too sensitive to embouchure pressure. Some embouchure pressure is absolutely required to play in the upper register (there can be too much, but that's a different issue), and a reed that is too soft will significantly flex with that embouchure pressure, closing up the space inside the mouthpiece and raising the pitch. Playing on a slightly harder reed strength can minimize this effect. One of the most important indicators that reed strength may be at the heart of your intonation problem is that the intonation in the lower octave is pretty spot-on and the intonation in the higher octave is sharp unless you correct it through voicing or jaw movement. I've suggested moving up a reed strength to quite a few of my students who have had this problem, and it has consistently helped. I hope that helps some of you sax players out there looking for an intonation fix.

Two Upcoming Books
Last but not least, I'm excited to tell you about two upcoming books I've been working on. The first is a science fiction novel, Gravity Leak, which I've posted about before. I'm in the final editing stages, and it will be hitting bookshelves in the upcoming months!

The other writing project I'm pretty excited about is a revised edition of my sound and overtone books. I'll be combining them into one volume that also incorporates the latest research into saxophone voicing, embouchure, articulation, etc. I've learned a lot since publishing these books, and I'm excited to update them and put something new out.

That's all for now, I hope to "see" a bunch of you at my live-streamed show on the 16th!



Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Gravity Leak: Album Out Now, Book Coming this Summer

I'm very excited to share that my album, Gravity Leak, is out. You can listen on whichever streaming platform you prefer, or you can download it, or you can even buy a physical copy! (Do it!)
This album has really been a labor of love. All of the tunes are my original compositions, and a significant portion of them are based on a novel I've been working on (by the same title). The first three tracks on the album make up a four-part suite inspired by the novel. The first track, "Tane and Ana," introduces the hero and heroine of the story, represented by the sax and trumpet. Besides the general instrumental representations, there are musical elements linked to both of the characters. Part II, "Gravity Leak," follows their discovery and journey to a parallel world. Again, there are musical elements representing specific parts of the story. One of the more obvious ones is the solo battle between the guitar and tenor sax, which is meant to represent one of the epic battles in the story. Part III, "Angel in Darkness," is about a specific event in the novel where Ana, represented by the soprano sax, leads others into a hellish version of the afterlife. The last composition in the suite, "Like Minds," is a musical version of one of the themes in the story, which is that united but different points of view are an important part of overcoming the obstacles that life puts in our path.

Here is a little more context for the story: Tane and Ana live fairly ordinary lives in New Boston, at least as ordinarily as possible in the year 2137 after climate disaster has transformed the earth. Tane, a save-the-world kind of guy, gave up a life of financial success to work at a high-tech wildlife refuge alongside Ana, a driven and talented field researcher. Their daily routine is interrupted when Tane starts having strange reoccurring dreams about a messenger from a parallel world who needs his help. Tane refuses to believe that there is any reality to his dreams until a breakthrough in his friend Cole’s work with gravity manipulation opens up new possibilities. With a potential path forward, Tane decides to help the messenger from his dream world. Unable to let Tane attempt the odyssey by himself, Ana volunteers to go with him. Unsure if they’ll even survive, they begin their journey with a small leap through the first known-to-man tear in space or in other words, a gaping hole in nothing.

While the novel is a fun part of this project, the music is meant to stand on its own. The album features a ton of talented musicians from Rochester, NY and Eastman School of Music, many of whom I have played with for years. The musicians include Luke Norris on tenor sax who plays a killing solo on track 3, Colin Gordon on soprano and alto saxes with a disgusting micro-chromatic solo on the title track, Brandon Choi on trumpet with a beautiful solo on track 1, Jack Courtright on trombone, Oliver Hanes on trumpet, Billy Petito on guitar who wages an epic solo battle on the title track, Julian Garvue on piano with a seizure-inducing ridiculous solo on the title track, Tyrone Allen II on acoustic and electric basses, Daniel Sunshine on drum set, Sterling Cozza on piano, Stephen Morris on drum set with a killing drum solo on the last track, and Jakob Ebers on acoustic bass with the only and definitely best bass solo on the album. The awesome audio engineering was done by Michael Sherman, Rich Wattie, and Mike Craig.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Single Released Today!

I'm very excited to share a single from my upcoming album, Gravity Leak, which will be out at the end of the month on Feb. 29th. This single is titled "Tane and Ana," and it's an original composition inspired by my sci-fi/fantasy novel coming out later this year. The track features solos by amazing trumpet player Brandon Choi and a tenor solo by yours truly. Other musicians on the track are Tyrone Allen II, Daniel Sunshine, Billy Petito, Julian Garvue, Colin Gordon, and Jack Courtright. Give it a listen!

Listen on Spotify, iTunes or Apple Music, Amazon, etc.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Rereleased Recordings and Something on the Way

I'm happy to share couple of exciting things. First, I have a new recording coming out, hopefully before the end of the year, called Tane and Anahera. It features a set of tunes for octet and quintet, and the octet music is based on a sci-fi epic that I've written (or least written in my head!). The music has a decidedly futuristic vibe, and the band is fantastic. I'm pumped to share the music with you all.

Second, I've rereleased my recordings. I've had various mishaps with releases in the past, and now they are all cleaned up and available on all of the mainstream music platforms (Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc.).

ROC Jazz Collective
This recording was made in 2017, and it features some great musicians who were all in Rochester, NY at the time. The recording features Sterling Cozza on piano, Olivery Haynes on Trumpet, Jakob Ebers on Bass, Stephen Morris on drums, and myself on sax. Oliver, Sterling, and myself contributed compositions for the recording, and my two tunes are Life Pass and Striving. Give it a listen:



Children at Play
This 2011 EP was recorded in Philadelphia with Gabe Globus-Hoenich on drums, Jordan Berger on bass, Matt Davis on guitar, John Britton on trumpet, and myself on sax. The tunes are all my writing, and they were some of my favorites that this band played. We performed regularly in Philly, and we also played in NYC and D.C. The music on the recording is an eclectic mix of jazz, rock, and Afro-Cuban. Here are the links: 
This was my first recording as a leader. My brother John and I co-led the recording with a great group of NYC-based musicians. The rhythm section features Jeremy Siskind on piano, Austin Walker on drums, and Taylor Waugh on bass. We also invited Chris Potter to play on two of the tracks from the album, my composition Ducks In a Row, and my brother's composition Anticipation. The recording turned out great, and we also had a big release show in NYC that Chris joined us for. You can see a transcription of his solo on Confirmation from the performance below. Here are links to the album:

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Kenny Garrett & Jazz Articulation

One of the subjects that doesn't get enough attention from jazz teachers is articulation. I've posted guidelines for it before here. Today's post is a follow up with a transcription. I thought I'd show the alto players some love, so I took a Kenny Garrett transcription, and transcribed the articulation. Here is the solo from Song 8 (solo starts around 57 seconds, and it's burning):



And here is a link to a PDF of the transcription.

You'll notice some unconventional markings on the transcription. I've used the letter d to mark notes that are tongued with a doodle tongue. A doodle tongue is essentially when a player gently places their tongue on the reed off-center for the entire duration of a note. This creates an articulation at the beginning of the note, mutes the note, and then pops out the next note when you release the tongue. Both of these techniques are integral to jazz saxophone articulation. They've been around for a hundred years, and they are rarely taught or marked on transcriptions. In fact, this is the first time I've wrote them out myself.

You will also see the notation (s s) under notes. For these, subtone both of the notes. Also, doodle tongue the first note, and hold the tongue on the reed through both notes. Because you are also subtoning, you will likely need to use the tip of your tongue. Release the tongue to articulate the note that follows.

Hopefully, this transcription helps you figure out some of the more subtle parts of playing improvised jazz. Good luck!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Podcast Interview

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Nick Maneila on the Everything Saxophone Podcast. We talked about my books on sound and overtones along with some of the new techniques I’ve been developing.

You can check it out here: saxophonepodcast.com/episode-055-ben-britton/

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Michael Brecker International Saxophone Competition

For those of you who haven't heard, there is a new sax competition starting this year in memory of Michael Brecker. There has been an extension on the application process, so you can enter until April 30. There is serious prize money involved ($12,500 first prize), and a chance to perform at the Red Sea Jazz Festival.

To be eligible you need to be 30 or younger as of July 1, 2019, and you cannot have had a signed record deal. See the website for more details.