After completing his undergraduate degree at Trinity College of Music in London, Alex Bryson moved to New York City achieving a Masters in Classical performance at the New School for Music. He worked increasingly as jazz musician, and during his time in New York he has worked with Murray Wall, Dwayne Clemons, John Leonard, Gary Montenaro, and Marie Claire Giraud. On Saturday 10th November he makes his debut appearance at The Verdict with his trio; Simon Woolf on bass and Matt Fishwick on drums.
Alex, you studied classical, how did jazz takeover?
I trained classically, but always maintained an interest in jazz growing up, because my Dad is a jazz fan and has a great record collection. When I was growing up the first records that really made an impression on me were those of Fats Waller, and then Lester Young in those small group recordings with Billie Holliday and Teddy Wilson, and also with the Basie Orchestra. I also spent a lot of time with Errol Garner, and eventually Charlie Parker. When I went to continue my classical studies in New York I began sitting in at jam sessions, and was lucky enough to fall in with a great group of musicians who were nice to me, and told me what I needed to work on to be able to do gigs. Over time I found it was a process of work that I was enjoying more and saw more potential for myself in, and eventually I decided to do only that to give myself the best chance at it.
Tell us how living in New York impacted on your playing.
I’m living in London now, but my time in New York did have a big influence on me. When I lived there I got to spend a lot of time hearing great piano players live, people like Johnny O Neal, Steve Ash, Michael Kanan, and in particular Barry Harris, whose workshops still form the basis for my approach to playing.
In your opinion, what’s the difference in the jazz scene somewhere like New York compared to the UK?
I think the advantage of New York is that there is more music happening every single week- more than you would have the stamina to see, actually. From the musician’s point of view, there is also something nice in the feeling of belonging to a community which has central place in the cultural history of that city. In the UK, a jazz musician is not seen as a guardian of the national culture, but a contributor of something foreign, which can be a bit more polarising. But perhaps that’s a good challenge! In any case, the London scene is also excellent. There is a wealth of exceptional musicians here, and I have found it a very rewarding scene to be in for the last few years.
It’s your first time playing at The Verdict and you’re bringing your trio, what does the night hold in store?
This is my first time playing there and I couldn’t be more excited! I’m lucky to play with Matt Fishwick (drums) and Simon Woolf (bass) on a regular basis, both masters of their
instruments and great stylists in the music - jazz lovers should take any opportunity to hear them. As for me, I’m primarily a straight ahead player, and I’ll be bringing a selection of tunes from the heyday of bebop and hard-bop. To me straight ahead jazz, like any great artistic genre, is a world rich in endless tropes and variations. At my gigs I try to share the small fraction of that world that I’ve learned.
You can see Alex Bryson perform with his trio at The Verdict on Saturday 10th November. £10/£5 https://www.wegottickets.com/event/447096