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The Britton Brothers Band: Uncertain Living

Bruce Lindsay By

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Hip-hop, bebop and Monk—not a music business legal partnership, but a brief summation of some of the musical influences at work on Uncertain Living, the excellent debut album from the Britton Brothers Band. The brothers—tenor saxophonist Ben Britton and trumpeter John, have put together a tight and talented collection of players with the added bonus of guest tenor player Chris Potter on two tracks.

John Britton's tunes, "Extra Fuzz" and "Anticipation," show a hip-hop influence. "Extra Fuzz" displays the influence most clearly, with its repeated short phrases sounding at times almost like samples. Both tunes are funky and danceable, thanks especially to the bass and drums of Taylor Waugh and Austin Walker. "Extra Fuzz" also enables John Britton to demonstrate his command of the plunger mute. "Molo," one of Ben's compositions, takes its cue from bebop and features a lyrical piano solo from Jeremy Siskind and the result is the album's most beautiful tune. Siskind's own composition, "June Humidity," echoes the piano style of Thelonious Monk. It's markedly different from the Brittons' own tunes with its sleepy, relaxed rhythms perfectly encapsulating the impact of hot and damp early summer days.

Potter's guest spots are inspired and his hard driving and inventive tenor playing has an immediate impact. A duet with the tenor of Ben Britton creates an exciting opening for Ben's composition "Ducks in a Row" while his contribution to John's slinky tune, "Anticipation," is crucial to its fluid drive.

The confidence and ability displayed here belies the relative youth of most of the players—the Britton brothers, Waugh and Walker were all music students at the time of recording while pianist Siskind is still in his mid-20s. It's great to hear such assured players, but at times the album would have benefitted from some judicious editing as the mid-sections of "Come Thou Fount" and "Extra Fuzz" tend to lose focus—the ability to make such decisions requires a degree of objectivity and these young and enthusiastic musicians will no doubt develop this with time.

Uncertain Living is an auspicious debut from a promising quintet of players. Hopefully the Britton Brothers Band can continue to develop as a unit, as well as individuals. Their talents as players and composers are already clear and more experience will create an outfit to rival the best around.

Track Listing: Extra Fuzz; Anticipation; June Humidity; Molo; Uncertain Living; Come Thou Fount; Mr John McNeil; Ducks in a Row.

Personnel: John Britton: trumpet; Ben Britton: tenor sax; Jeremy Siskind: piano; Taylor Waugh: bass; Austin Walker: drums; Chris Potter: tenor sax (2, 8).

Title: Uncertain Living | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: Self Produced


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