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Hey all,

I recently wrote a review for the title track on tenorist Ben Britton's new EP CD "Children At Play". I believe Ben is a member here on this forum. The CD has been released digitally as of today, and I will post my review here, as well as the website links that they're available on. To pick this album up or to get more information about it you can visit the following websites at:
http://riot.benbrittonjazz.com
or the iTunes link - http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/children-at-play-single/id444689756

Here is my review of Ben's title track -

Artist/Band Name: Ben Britton/Unconventional Riot
CD/Song: “Children at Play” (Title Track of EP Recording)
Ben Britton – Tenor sax
Matt Davis – Guitar
Jordan Berger – Bass
Gabe Globus-Hoenich – Drums

Opening with a sparse solo drums statement, Ben Britton’s composition “Children At Play” (from Unconventional Riot’s soon-to-be-released EP) captures a scene right out of childhood, much like his description of what he had in mind while writing it. Visions of a youngster inquisitively exploring the seldom-traveled nooks and crannies of his own neighborhood came to mind while listening to the melody flow by. The playfully swaying rhythmic nature of Britton’s piece (oft switching seamlessly between even and odd time meters within phrases) brought to mind the child-like surprise one might feel when coming upon an unexpected reptile in a creek bed or loosing a bit of footing while climbing up an embankment. After the mellow (but quietly driving) rhythm section introduction, artfully accompanied by the green hues of Matt Davis’s introspective guitar, Ben Britton’s powerful tenor voice enters on an arpeggiated opening-call before diving into the melody.

Although only a quartet in make-up, Unconventional Riot emphasizes the use of dynamics and phrase coloring to bring the written notes to life as a band. Since the dawn of jazz, one thing that has always been very instrumental in forming a musician’s identity among their audience (other than a unique timbre and improvisational conception) is the compositional voice. Here, Britton has demonstrated that he’s put as much thought and preparation into presenting his music so that the composition tells its own story as he has into his saxophone playing. At just the right moment, a melody statement might be colored by a series of dynamic cymbal splashes or a clarified by a guitar counter line to round out the phrase. All the while, the rhythm section (comprised of guitarist Matt Davis, bassist Jordan Berger, and drummer Gabe Globus-Hoenich) expertly craft the scenery of the melody without distorting the foreground of the piece, creating a comfortable, balanced and colorful place for the melody to live in.

Ben begins his improvised solo with a bold and reedy tone, leading into a new musical landscape within which, while paying tribute to the original theme and ideas of the melody, the band is able to find musical freedom and space for interactive moments. Britton has obviously delved deep into the history of the saxophone during his own studies, developing his own personal improvisational voice among those of the acknowledged past and present titans of the tenor sax. Always musical and coherent, Ben’s fiery musical thoughts and remarkable technical facility grab the listener’s attention and hold it steady while embarking on a musical journey through the challenging form of the tune. Ending on a bluesy phrase, he smoothly passes it off to Davis on the guitar.

Opening with a motivic theme that effortlessly develops into a flowing musical phrase, Matt Davis’s subdued and full guitar tone brings a fresh palette of colors to the aural picture being painted during the course of “Children at Play”. Globus-Hoenich and Berger are able to thoughtfully break it down in the rhythm section to bring both a sense of finality to Ben’s arcing tenor solo and an atmosphere of new beginning for Davis’s guitar solo to build on. Using a variation of multi-voice chords and blazing single-note lines, Davis is able to weave through the tone-field of the form with ease. After the first few phrases of the form flow by, one of Matt’s echoing voicings leads into a new and exciting lightly-broken-up 4/4 swing feel in the rhythm section headed up by Berger and Globus-Hoenich.

After a final smoothly connected transition, the inquisitive and guiding melody is stated once more, with Britton reaching into the extended register of his tenor sax to deliver a few of the most impactful notes of the piece. As the song flows to the final resting place of its journey, it ends with abstractly fading group improvisation on the final chord and a pianissimo scrape of the ride cymbal by Golubs-Hoenich.
Overall, Unconventional Riot has presented themselves as a formidable group of improvisers on their new EP recording, while also paying attention to polishing the compositional details that help a band to stand out. I’m looking forward to hearing more from this ensemble, which I’m sure has a bright future ahead of them.

- Matt Marantz
 

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Thanks for the kind words, Matt! Your description has really nailed the song on the head!

For those of you who haven't journeyed off the forum, here is a preview of the title track as well as the other two tracks from the EP:

Children at Play Preview.mp3
Partly Preview.mp3
Good Times Preview.mp3

Also, here is the album cover artwork (& yes, those are my awesome kids!):
 

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Great music, Ben! I love tenor/guitar quartets.
 

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Distinguished Member, Forum Contributor 2012-2015
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I have been a jazz guitarist in quartets for many years and I've always enjoyed working with saxophonists (and trumpet players). Now I find myself in their place, which is quite enjoyable and a completely different perspective. Haven't picked up the guitar in the last three years, I must confess, but I do still love to listen to it in this kind of context, with a competent guitarist. Yesterday I was listening to two Ralph Bowen CDs (Due Reverence and Dedicated), where Adam Rogers plays a a sideman, and the chemistry is fabulous.
By the way, I also enjoyed your compositions, very fresh and intriguing.
 
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