September 17, 2008
U.S. and U.K. jazz musicians raised the roof at The Y last night, in a gig featuring mainly original compositions by bass-player Howard Britz. Perhaps the opening numbers weren't quite tight, but they were soon motoring with break-neck "New York Roast". The mood changed completely for "Goodbye" written for Britz' late father, with Sylvia Cuenca playing a cymbal like the tolling of a bell, and a lyrical bass solo was the highlight. Horace Silver's "Song for my Father" was graced by Jonathan Gee's piano solo, Wayne Shorter's ballad "House of Jade" featured Will Vinson's alto, and an intriguing "Scatter Bug" closed the first set. Excellent though Vinson's sax and Quentin Collins' trumpet were, the rhythm section were awesome. Cuenca had an outstanding solo on "Yakology". Jonathan Gee's unaccompanied piano introduction to "Monk's Dream" was enough to dazzle Monk himself, his accompaniment behind the horns was driving, and a breathtaking solo followed. Just the trio played gently swinging "Brown and Sizzle", and Britz' beautiful tone on the double-bass shone. "Martha's Song" underlined what a fine composer Britz is, to enthusiastic approval.
December 08, 2008
THE New York to London Express steamed into Arnold last night driven by ex-pat New York bass player Howard Britz and top UK jazz pianist Jonathan Gee. And how these two musicians drove this fabulous transatlantic quintet; the whole group pivoted around Britzâ€™s huge bass sound and Geeâ€™s amazing wizardry at the piano. The other British member of the quintet was trumpeter Quentin Collins, who like all the other musicians is a composer and leader of his own outfit. Collins possessed a ferocious attack, but his clear bell-like tone and beautifully weighted phrasing was the perfect foil to the searing alto-sax of New Yorker Will Vinson. The two front-liners combined well in the ensemble passages, producing a light and airy sound, which bounced along in the up-tempo numbers. The quintetâ€™s highly skilled and dextrous percussionist was New Yorker Sylvia Cuenca. She was a superb drummer, always listening, a great punctuator and fine soloist. The quintetâ€™s programme abounded with originals by Britz, which included intoxicating themes and moving ballads. The outstanding Goodbye was a tribute to his late father â€“ a very beautiful and thoughtful piece with Britzâ€™s contribution played with great feeling and maximum dexterity. In Scatterbug, another Britz original, Collins played a breathtaking solo and Gee was again prominent, showing off his dazzling technique. New York Roast, played at terrific pace, found all the players in top form and Thelonious Monkâ€™s Dream provided a delightful and popular encore. For the whole evening Howard was a marvellous communicator. He described the circumstances that inspired most of his compositions. He also paid glowing tributes to the facilities Bonington and the organisers for their constant efforts to make bands welcome at, what is one of Britainâ€™s most prestigious jazz venues
March 07, 2008
Howard Britz HERE I STAND (Tee Zee) London-born bassist- composer Britz came to the States in 1991 on a a full scholarship to attend the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He subsequently completed jazz studies at the New England Conservatory of Music before moving to Philadelphia in 1996, and then settled in Brooklyn in 1998. His latest release, a follow-up to his 2005 debut as a leader Made in Brooklyn, again finds him collaboration with some of the best and brightest on New Yorkâ€™s modern-jazz scene. This time out Britz is accompanied by the excellent pianist George Colligan, the well-established drummer Sylvia Cuenca and two lesser-known but equally accomplished talents, trumpeter David Smith and alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin. Together they tackle Britzâ€™s original compositions like the gospel-tinged â€œYakkology,â€ the dynamic 6/8 vehicle â€œOceansâ€ and the kinetic up-tempo boppish romp â€œNew York Roastâ€-with requisite chops, flexibility and killer instincts. The settle into Britzâ€™s melancholy ode â€œGoodbye (for Dad)â€ with reverence and sensitivity, then delve in to an real-deal second line feel on â€œLucky Friday the 13thâ€ which morphs back and forth between Nâ€™awlins funk and New York swing. Along the way, the leader distinguishes himself as a first-rate swinger with considerable soloistic skills, which becomes especially apparent on the down-home medium groover â€œBrown & Sizzle,â€ Britzâ€™s tribute to his bass idol, Ray Brown. The composer also explores more sharply intelligent, modernistic fare on the angular modal romp â€œScatterbugâ€ and the buoyant 7/4 vehicle â€œMarthaâ€™s Songâ€ written for his wife. JAZZ TIMES March 2008
March 20, 2008
CD Reviews: Howard Britzâ€™s â€˜Here I Standâ€™ Tuesday, March 18, 2008 - 07:07 PM EJazz News Tee Zee Records (Rec. October 2007) Review by John Stevenson Arguably one the more robust releases for 2008, Howard Britzâ€™s â€˜Here I Standâ€™ raises the bar from both compositional and bass-playing perspectives. Bucking the trend towards near-slavish dependence on jazz standards, Britz ably demonstrates that he is conversant with tradition. Whatâ€™s more, he makes his independent mark as a writer of catchy, and sometimes complex melodic pieces. On the bright opening number, â€œYaakologyâ€, penned for Israeli drummer Yaaki Levi, Les-McCann-like gospel inflections playfully collide with Latin strains, artfully assisted by the remarkable ensemble and solo work of drummer Sylvia Cuenca and pianist George Colligan. Cuencaâ€™s time-keeping is in notable lock-step with the gently persuasive lope of Britzâ€™s plucked notes; a stance that becomes even more evident on the alternating second-line-shuffle/hard-bopping swing of â€œLucky Friday the 13thâ€. Which brings me to the horns on the CD. Alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin and trumpeter David Smith were surely brought on for their considerably combustible instrumental talents. Listeners can bear ear-witness to their burning blowing abilities on the hairpin changes to â€œNew York Roastâ€. But â€˜Here I Standâ€™ essentially expresses the innate musicality of London-born, US-resident Britz. He has that special ability to channel aspects of Ray Brown and Scott La Faro (to mention a few of his influences) without being wholly imitative of either. A great example of this is on â€œBrown & Sizzleâ€, putting on show Britzâ€™s elegant, dependable, rhythmic gait. It closely mirrors Ray Brownâ€™s instrumental sophistication, recalling memories of the good old Oscar Peterson days. George Colliganâ€™s bluesy flourishes also pleasantly tickle the ear. â€œGoodbye (for Dad)â€, written in memory of Britzâ€™s recently departed father, is the mellowest of the eight original tunes on the CD. I would heartily agree with Howard that â€œit has resolve and peace in it as well as sadnessâ€. The cascading, downward-descending chords on the opening bars of â€œOceansâ€ blend in with Smith and Benjaminâ€™s unison horn lines, Colliganâ€™s intense but always inspiring solo â€“ not to mention Britzâ€™s probing pizzicato technique and Cuencaâ€™s creative cross-sticking and polyrhythmic drumming. â€œScatterbugâ€ exemplifies Britzâ€™s complex writing skills, a harmonic journey full of tight corners, while the 7/4 tune â€œMarthaâ€™s Songâ€, triumphantly bookends a fine library of pieces. At a time when a younger generation of jazzmen can oftentimes sound jaded with clichÃ©d bop and post-bop affinities, Howard Britz invests a familiar jazz tradition with new and inspiring guises.
January 20, 2008
'HERE I STAND' - Tee Zee records released 2007 reviewed by John Book, The Run-off-Groove Howard Britz's calls his music contemporary acoustic jazz, and at a time when some forms are jazz are watered down to the point of being a Fruit Stripe gum soda, this definitely means something. His statement, or I should say eight statements are made on Here I Stand (Tee Zee), and the declaration: jazz in its truest form while looking towards the music's future. Britz plays the stand up bass, and like many of his contemporaries before him, he writes and arranges his music, as it should be. His knack for getting into the groove whenever possible, and by doing this being the focal point while allowing his musicians to live and breathe in the music, is a testament to what he is as a musician and artist. The music on here has the feel of jazz from the 50's and 60's, so those who may like their bebop and hard bop traditional will find all of that here. But within these tracks one is able to hear a few ECM influences and the occasional push into something soulful and funky, although it's not as upfront as one might thing. "Oceans", like its name, carries the listener on for a ride that goes from smoothed out to a bit of jazzy commotion, but with everyone on the boat (Sylvia Cuenca on drums, Casey Benjamin on alto sax, David Smith on trumpet and flugelhorn, and George Colligan on piano) navigating as a team, they assist/compliment each other quite well and make sure the song gets to its destination in one piece, without anyone jumping on a semi-secure showboat. While everyone is on equal terms here, Britz allows himself to shine on his own with the opening bass riff of "Martha's Song", in honor of his wife. Taken in 7/4, Britz sets the listener up for the dynamics that are to come, and throughout the song one can tell Britz is aware of being the anchor, while making sure everyone joins in to bring the album home. The horn section of Benjamin and Smith sound as sharp and polished as any good horn section should, and Colligan's piano work has the kind of style that sounds too good to be true, or as people might say in Hawai'i, "da bugga is mean!" Britz and Cuenca are a team not to be messed with, their union is tight and there are moments where it feels like they are two sides of the same musical brain, quite remarkable. Here I Stand is an outstanding album, and Britz is one of many jazz musicians today who are continuting to break down the time barriers, which is another way of saying that with jazz, there should be no limits. (Here I Stand will be released nationally on March 1st, but can be purchased through CDBaby.) John Book
January 20, 2008
CD Review: 'HERE I STAND' IMPROVISATION NATION Â http://zzaj.freehostia.com/index.htm here's what I've got written up for issue #80 for "HERE I STAND" from Howard Britz: Howard Britz - HERE I STAND: Â It was interesting to me that I first spotted Howard's fantastic bass playing on one of my favorite "home artist" sites, www.indieonestop.com/jamroom Â then 2 days later received it from promoter Jim Eigo Â www.jazzpromoservices.com . Â Jim only promotes those artists that are high quality Â ripe with talent. Â Well, after listening through the first 2 tracks, it was abundantly clear that Mr. Britz is at the top of the jazz heap. Â All original compositions lend to the atmosphere of high energy, as Howard's double bass is joined by drums from Sylvia Cuenca, David Smith's trumpet Â flugelhorn, alto sax from Casey Benjamin Â piano from George Colligan. Â My favorite track on the album is cut #7, "Scatterbug" - can't quite put my finger on it, but it somehow takes me back to my earliest listens to jazz in the dark jazz cellars in Germany - I'm pretty sure it's Smith's horn work that makes it feel that way - totally tight tune with heavy energy that involves! Â Â the listener from the opening bar. Â This is one of the best albums I've heard in 2008, Â I give it my MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED rating. Â Get more information at www.howardbritz.com Â Â Rotcod Zzaj AKA Dick Metcalf
December 13, 2005
Made In Brooklyn Howard Britz | TeeZee Records By Nic Jones Since when has getting four or five musicians together in one place qualified as a â€projectâ€? Although that question is a rhetorical one, it does have some bearing upon the music here. In his liner notes Howard Britz refers to the fact that the kind of sessions which make up this disc usually pass unrecorded, and the very informality that is a hallmark of all of them might just have no little bearing upon the success of the music. This in turn might just tell us something about the perils of ignoring informality. The ground covered on Made in Brooklyn is largely the post bop mainstream, and the fact that compositions by both Coltrane and Ellington are covered in this collection might offer a clear idea of what is on offer. What might not be so obvious, however, is that pieces of Ellingtonia can be put across with what can only be described as Monkian intervals, as on â€œMood Indigo.â€ The fact that a Britz original such as â€œBeauty From Withinâ€ holds its own in face of such exalted company suggests that the leader is much more than a bass player, the dependability of whom is never in question. By a similar token, this disc is tribute also to the fact that it's never a bad idea for musicians to get together. Look for abundant evidence in the work of the central quartet of Britz, Jacques Schwarz-Bart (tenor), Helio Alves (piano), and Terreon Gulley (drums), who seem to know each other's musical personalities inside out. This again works to the listener's advantage, as does the lineup for Kenny Garrett's â€œComputergy,â€ where Alves drops out to be replaced by Casey Benjamin's potent alto sax. If indeed there is art to be found in the everyday, then without a doubt we have some manifestation of it here. In the hands of a label for whom marketing is more important than the music it purports to represent, this might well have been put out as some kind of project. As it is the music speaks for itself, and its message is a thoroughly worthwhile one. Track Listing: Friend Or Foe; Beauty From Within; The Crafty Bitch; Mood Indigo; The Price To Pay; Impressions; Computergy. Personnel: Howard Britz: bass; Anthony Pinciotti: drums (1-3); Terreon Gulley: drums (4-7); Jacques Schwarz-Bart: tenor saxophone; Casey Benjamin: alto saxophone (7); Helio Alves: piano (1-3,6): James Hurt: piano (5) Style: Mainstream/Bop/Hard Bop/Cool Review Published: December 13, 2005 Listen & Buy Select a music store Abstract Logix Amazon Barnes & Noble CD Baby CD Universe IndieJazz Jazz Loft MusicStack - LPs Tower Records