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Take Five With The Britton Brothers

AAJ Staff By

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Meet The Britton Brothers: Ben and John Britton, said to be "extremely talented" by the likes of Chris Potter, have entered the jazz scene confidently with their debut album, Uncertain Living. With a collective approach developed throughout years of playing together, they have arrived to a music that is forward thinking and invites a wide range of listeners. At an early point in life, Ben and John dedicated their lives to music, and their upcoming release is the first offering of their hard work and dedication.

The Britton brothers, raised near Annapolis, MD, have been playing music together from an early age. They have developed a strong musical bond as well as unique and creative approaches to improvisation. Both started playing piano at a young age and learned to love jazz in their teenage years. Together they participated in the Peabody jazz prep program as well as participated in the Essentially Ellington competition with their high school. Both went their separate ways for a college education in jazz but have continued their musical journey with consistency and passion. The Britton Brothers have a bright horizon with many opportunities and an optimistic eagerness to make a difference in the world of music.

Instrument(s):

Trumpet, saxophone.

Teachers and/or influences?

John: My biggest musical models started close to home. My Dad is has the best musical taste of anyone I know, and then my brother Ben is the one who really got me to interested in jazz. All through middle school and high school I had great classical teachers. John Babcock who played trumpet for the navy band and Langston Fitzgerald who had been playing with the Baltimore Symphony orchestra. My jazz education was self motivated. I fell in love with Miles first, especially his work with Gil Evans. After Miles my new favorite trumpet was Clifford Brown. I transcribed a ton of Clifford and really got into his playing. Since him, my biggest idols, trumpet-wise, have been Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, and Dave Douglas. They each have a very unique sound with great modern elements in their playing and writing. I want to emulate that in my own work. Clay Jenkins is my teacher at Eastman and was instrumental in my coming here to study. He focuses on creativity, sound, and expression, which I hope to keep in my personal musical philosophy.

Ben: I've had a few important teachers and musical role models throughout my development. During my college years my primary saxophone teachers have been Walt Weiskopf, George Garzone, and currently Steve Wilson. These guys have all been great, and they have each given me a different set of tools to work on my craft. I have also recently started studying Indian classical music with Samir Chatterjee, which has been mind expanding to say the least.

My musical influences range from earlier musicians like Charlie Parker to modern musicians like Dave Holland. Chris Potter has been one really important musician for me. Since I first heard him I've admired his music and playing. Naturally, I wanted to learn about what he was doing, and he was gracious enough to give me and my brother, John, a couple lessons. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with Chris on a project of transcriptions from his own records, which still has yet to be released. It was an exciting experience to record with him for John's and my album, and I learned a lot from the experience as well.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

Ben: I remember one moment in high school in my freshman year. I was having a rare serious teenage moment when I was considering what everyone around me and myself would be doing for the rest of our lives. For whatever crazy reason, in that moment, being a musician made perfect since. Though I didn't really start working hard towards that goal immediately, I eventually got down to the task, and here I am today.

Your dream band:

John: Since high school I've always enjoyed the energy and grooves of the music of Dave Holland, especially with his quintet. The best musical situation I feel like I could ever be a part of is playing his music with his quintet.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Ben: The first jazz album I bought for myself was an early 60's Coltrane record simply titled Coltrane. I already had been given a few other records I listened to a lot - one by Sonny Stitt, and another with Stan Getz, but I wasn't ready for the Coltrane record yet. I kept it around, because I knew it was good even though I didn't get it. Eventually I transcribed some of 'Up Against the Wall,' and learned to dig it. Trane's solo on 'Up Against the Wall' is actually really great, and if you haven't heard it, check it out.

CDs you are listening to now:

Ben: Charlie Parker - Montreal, 1953 - Uptown Jazz

Maria Schneider Orchestra - Sky Blue - ArtistShare

Sonny Rollins - The Essential Sonny Rollins: The RCA Years - RCA

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

John: Jazz has always been a hands on experience. As the popularity of jazz has declined so has the opportunities to learn it. The focus in preserving jazz is now in the university and in education. I think that in order to keep the music alive the focus cannot just be in jazz education but in keeping it a hands on experience. Students need to be active in getting gigs at all kinds of venues, even those that may not currently support jazz. The musician and listener needs to be active in supporting their favorite musicians by going and seeing them play, buying their albums, and creating friendships and relationships among musicians and audiences when possible. Jam sessions need to continue. Bebop was formed in the after hour jam session in New York City. The music needs to continue to be played and approached in creative, fresh, and individual ways that encourages the type of progression that was always inherent in jazz music.

Ben: I think younger people need to be drawn into the audience for jazz to continue to do well. The more opportunities kids and teenagers have to be exposed to jazz music the better. Things like presentations, concerts, and master classes in grade schools are important. Community musical events and performances in venues where young people are found are also important. Not everyone can appreciate jazz music, but there are lots of open younger ears who would be into the music.

What is in the near future?

We are planning to release our new album, Uncertain Living, in the beginning of 2010. The album has some great musicians on it including guest artist Chris Potter on sax, Jeremy Siskind on piano, Austin Walker on drums, and Taylor Waugh on bass. We recorded mostly originals, and there is a focus on the music of our generation present throughout the album.
About The Britton Brothers
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