by Norman Warwick

When Mr. Bewick (left) introduced Jenny Bray by playing one of her tracks, a song called Desire, I was immediately struck by how it shared its opening technique with the way The Beatles introduced us to the girl who was leaving home  in their famous She´s Leaving Home album track on their Sergeant Pepper´s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Both tracks paint a bleak and detailed, somewhat voyeuristic,  picture of the trap of faux domesticity.

Jenny Bray Jenny wrings every ounce of nuance out her song, and whilst it isn´t pretty, she paints a vivid picture. The notes she plays on the piano, unaccompanied in that sung verse, add to a tension suggesting that something is about to give, and there is a clever punctuation, at the end of that one verse, of a kind of semi colon as a more optimistic sounding  instrumental piece.

Speaking figuratively, Steve invited Jenny Bray to his studio dining table, for a round of Hot Biscuits and a cuppa, introducing her to his listening audience as ´an East Coast jazz pianist, writer and teacher´ and then asked her to give his listeners a somewhat fuller and clear picture by asking,

 ´so, who is Jenny Bray?´ (right)

¨Music has always been the main part of my life, since I was really, really young. I grew up in a large musical family with strong Welsh heritage and both my parents being musicians: my mother was an opera singer and my father was a jazz pianist. So I grew up with a very interesting mix of musical genres, listening to almost every music style you could imagine. As well as classical and jazz we had pop albums in the house, including my favourite recordings by The Stones, Supertramp and Genesis.

 I just absorbed it all, I think, and then started singing, composing and playing the piano, guitar and any other instrument I could find, melodica, oboe, clarinet, violin, church organ, glockenspiel and percussion, that just continued really into school years and right through college.

 Apparently when I came home from the hospital, as a new-born, my father stood over me and put on a recording of Beethoven´s violin concerto, and conducted the entire work over my crib!

As a child I remember getting completely lost in the beauty and expression I saw in dance, literature and music of all genres. I would love to talk more about this when we look at the teaching styles and methods I adopt with my own students who I teach/coach from birth and their families.

So, Beethoven was my first introduction to sound and still is as my father still plays Beethoven sonatas daily after breakfast. I am currently working as a Suzuki piano teacher and believe that even before we are born we’re absorbing sounds and music from the outside world.

Steve then wondered when Jenny had first been drawn to the jazz genre.

¨Did jazz come to you at a later date, then?

´Because my father played piano in a jazz trio I grew up watching the communication skills and interplay between the 3 players, piano, bass, drums, and I watched their very close and sincere, respectful relationships grow, it was amazing to me and comforting how they related to each other through breathing, listening and watching each other. Watching my father playing with his jazz trio…”I also realised what fun it was, such a great laugh, how important to have a sense of humour!”

I listened to as much jazz as opera as classical and I remember a musical diet of people like George Shearing, Oscar Peterson and Lena Horne,…Ella Fitgerald, of course and Miles Davis and then Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass.

That´s another example of the serendipity that we meet so often here as we wander sidetracks & detours. Our friend, Larry Yaskiel, honorary editor of the quarterly Lancelot glossy magazine here on Lanzarote, was formerly a music executive at A & M records working closely with Herb Alpert, (left with the Tijuana Brass) who was the A of that record label partnership of course.

´ My favourite music still includes those early musical loves, Bach’s 48 prelude and fugues, Granado´s guitar & piano  works, Tchaikovsky & Beethoven violin concertos and Welsh male voice choirs (My father is Welsh).

I know you come from a singer-writer background, Norman, and I too liked artists such as Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens and Nina Simone.

At home, when I was a child, we were listening to albums by those people but of course I was aware of pop and rock music too, so I was listening to The Beatles (right) and Bowie and so influences from jazz, classical, pop and rock found their way into my own writing and playing´.

I still treasure the performances I saw by Andreas Segovia and Rudolf Nureyev,

And I loved reading, especially the poetry of Lord Byron and the work of Rainer Marie Rilke, The Bronte Sisters and CS Lewis.

When Steve steered the conversation towards her current projects Jenny was able to offer some exciting news

´My debut album was called Jenny Bray, and was released in The States  as I was working over there at that time. I was fortunate to gain a sponsor for a second album “Me” which led to many performances including shows and interviews at the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival and National Public Radio USA.

A few months ago I put out the album, on social media, via Spotify and Apple Music.´

I´m currently working ona  new album, the working title is One Hare One Owl, and its being recorded at Beckside studios in Scarborough and at studios in Seattle USA.

I have only recently returned back to the UK from working near New York USA and ever since arriving back I´ve been working on my writing and reconnecting with musicians I knew and worked with before I went to the States. It has been lovely,… so nice connecting with those people again who have been so supportive over the years and generous with their time and talents. I have also met many new friends in the North of England who are artists. They have become truly inspirational.

I´ve just formed Jenny Bray Collective with some amazing musicians for whom I have a huge amount of respect. It’s a good feeling to have a new band to work out ideas with.

The album Jenny identified as the most recently released, Me, is all over social media and a single, All I Need, has been released from its playlist.

´I had a really good friend, called Olive Joseph, a Grammy Nominee, working with me on that album, and doing some great backing vocals, and I´m hoping I can get her back in the studio to record for One Hare One Owl. We’re like sisters and our voices blend well together´. It’s nice to have the female company too in a business dominated a lot of the time by the guys!

Steve then played a track called, appropriately I think, Drive The Bass, describing a bass player doing just that, aided by pulsating percussion and dramatic piano, and searching saxophone around a yearning vocal.

Jenny suggested the new album, though, will be ready for release early next year and, there is some studio time booked to apply finishing touches.

 Since returning to the UK Jenny has been pleased to find there is still some  demand CDs from gig audiences but she says,

´Í´d like to record it on vinyl as well. It´s quite funny to see the old formats coming back. I think we´ll be able to arrange that with the studio because they seem to be prepared to buy in smaller stockpiles. Its not always viable at the moment to buy them in the thousands that we once did as the whole financial landscape of gigging and touring is shifting at the moment´

Readers of Sidetracks And Detours might remember that we reported on Lorde´s outlook on exactly that problem. In an article, entitled Lordy, Lordy, Lorde, The New Zealand artist ( real name Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, right) examined the cost and risk and reward of musical tours in these post-covid times. That article was posted on 19th August 2021 but remains in our easy to navigate archives of around 850 major articles., If you want to know more about the issue., just tap her name, Lorde, into our search engine at the foot of our listings.

We have already noticed over here in Lanzarote that even in this first month of 2023 we are at last seeing full-house signs for the first time since lockdowns, and as a by-product the whole scan ticket and enter procedure seems to be finally working quickly and efficiently.

Artists like Jenny should not be too worried. Good musicians, who have honed their craft and clearly love what they do, will always make a living through their live gigs and their recordings, because the rest of us enjoy being entertained by excellent performers, like Jenny, who communicate through their music.

Jenny (left) understands her fan base and their needs and demands but is also wise enough to recognise that she has to primarily dedicate her time to her livelihood of musicianship, which is why she has set up jennybraymusic as her business page on facebook.

She dropped an e mail to tell me about the guy who is producing her album in America. Justin Johnson is a music producer, song-writer and session drummer at J Room 3 productions.

Justin (right) has produced albums for Jerry Foster in Nashville, Jessie Ketola in Seattle, Raintown in Glasgow and Fallon Bowman in Vancouver.

He’s also worked as a drummer for Petra in Nashville, Jewel, (a favourite artist of Sidetracks And Detours) in Los Angeles, Joan Rosario in Chicago and Robert Vincent.

´Working with Justin on the new album´, says Jenny, ´I feel as if I am the breath and the spirit of the album and Justin is the heartbeat“.

Jenny majored in Choreography and Composition at the University of York, studied piano at the Juilliard School of Music Manhatten New York City and Suzuki Piano teaching in Galway Ireland and Cardiff South Wales. She currently directs Yorkshire Wolds Suzuki Piano, Rev Ray jazz course and J B Collective.

If you would like to see any reviews of her albums you might like to visit the about section on jenny bray music facebook page.

She is excited about the her forthcoming album and has enjoyed the recording process so far especially working with Justin and can´t wait for it to come to completion and start working on the next project1

Jenny Bray and her Collective sound like an act to watch out for, and don´t forget you will soon be able to buy her music at her live gigs !

On air sign background

A weekly plateful of Hot Biscuits is delivered from the jazz presenter Steve Bewick´s mix-cloud . His Hot Biscuits come in various jazz flavours and this week´s programme is a live set from the Freddy Garner Quartet at The Creative Space, South Manchester. The show features high tempo jazz from the Quartet with Freddy on keyboards. Also featured on the broadcast is Jack Hylton and his Orchestra, Samara and Carolina Lelis, Gaz Hughes with a feature from his new CD, Paul Booth, Imaani Saleem. The programme closes with World Heart Beat Music Academy. If this sounds interesting then follow Hot Biscuits 24/7 at Steve Bewick’s Shows | Mixcloud

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