Sam Braysher, the London based alto saxophonist, received international critical acclaim for his debut album, Golden Earings, a duo project with New York pianist Michael Kanan, which was called “delightful and surprising” by Dave Gelly in the Observer. Some five years later the follow-up album, Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man is released with Michael Kanan making way for bassist Tom Farmer and drummer Jorge Rossey. Common to both albums, apart from the artwork and design being by Mariano Gil, is that Sam Brasher only contributes one of his own compositions to the tracklist.
Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man, which is a lyric from the Gershwin tune ‘Shall We Dance’, delivers new takes on a diverse range of American Songbook classics, jazz standards, and a Disney song. As Sam writes in the liner notes he “tried to choose an interesting selection of tunes for this set, including some that are rarely played by jazz musicians, although I hope a few of these might at least sound familiar”.
The album opens with Dexter Gordon’s ‘For Regulars Only’, which can be found on the 1961 album Doin’ Allright. I enjoyed the crisp sound of the alto sax and there are the enjoyable trades between Sam Braysher and Jorge Rossy with Tom Farmer providing good bass lines in support of the two leads. ‘Heart and Soul’ made me smile with its simple, familiar opening notes. One album reviewer thought that the tune might come across as a little pedestrian, this not a sentiment I hold with. Yes, the tune is relatively simple but leaves little room for error and Sam’s improvisational playing shines throughout.
‘One Note Samba’ is a short, punchy number where the Brazilian styling is pared back but not to the extent that the Latin rhythm laid down by Jorge Rossy is lost altogether. Jorge switches to the vibraphone for ‘Some Other Spring’ and his playing is an absolute joy against the melodic line of the alto sax with the resonant bass of Tom Farmer adding additional warmth to this beautiful number.
‘Pintxos’ is the only Sam Braysher composition on the album, and for me the standout track. The swinging number brims with vitality with a wonderful sax sound on top of which Tom Farmer gets to play some terrific bass lines against the bright sound of Jorge Rossy’s drums. It is clear from this number that Sam Braysher is a more than competent composer so why do we not get the chance to hear more of his own work?
Walter Donaldson’s ‘Little White Lies’ has Jorge play the supporting role to Tom and Sam and the tune works well – I can imagine it being used to end the first set of a live gig. ‘The Sweetest Sounds’ follows on nicely with Tom Farmer’s bass lines standing out. ‘Reflection (from Mulan)’ is the Disney song referred to earlier is an unusual tune for a jazz album, but it does work, with Tom Farmer’s bass working well with Sam’s reflective sax playing and Jorge Rossy providing splashes of sound from the cymbal.
‘Shall We Dance’ picks up the tempo for a lively sound that shows off just how well these three musicians play of and with each other – the trades between sax and drums are great fun. Jorge Rossy plays the marimba on ‘This Nearly Was Mine’, the woody notes standing out against the wistful playing of Sam – the marimba solo is gorgeous with Tom’s slow bass line providing the perfect link to the reintroduction of the sax. The bowed bass section adds a layer of poignancy that I found very moving for this melancholy waltz.
Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man is brought to a whimsical end with ‘Walking The Dog’ from the film Shall We Dance. Apparently, the music can be heard as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers walk back and forth across the deck of a boat – the notes don’t say whether or not a dog is involved. It is a fun tune on which to finish another fine album from Sam Braysher with exemplary support from the musicians he chose to have with him: Jorge Rossy and Tom Farmer.
Sam Braysher deserves the plaudits he gets for his playing and his arrangements of other peoples work but I should like to hear more of Sam himself. I should like to experience more of Sam’s own voice, and I will only get that from hearing more of his own compositions. ‘Pintxos’ fizzes with ideas and energy and gives us a glimpse of what an album of originals could be but for the time being I shall content myself with listening to Golden Earings and Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man until the next album drops.
Musicians: Sam Braysher – alto sax; Tom Farmer – double bass; Jorge Rossy – drums, vibraphone, marimba.
Tracklist: For Regulars Only; Heart And Soul; One Note Samba; Some Other Spring; Pintxos; Little White Lies; The Sweetest Sounds; Reflection (from Mulan); Shall We Dance; This Nearly Was Mine; Walking The Dog
Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man is out on the UNIT Records label and can be purchased directly from Sam Braysher at www.sambraysher.com