with ONE HARE ONE OWL, ready for release
Norman Warwick conducts an exclusive interview with JENNY BRAY for Sidetracks And Detours
UK jazz artists Jenny Bray (left) is a lady I first heard on Steve Bewick´s Hot Biscuits radio show a couple of years ago, and I have been a huge fan ever since, and am currently putting her current single Ringing Bells on to all my playlists. I have introduced Jenny on these pages in a couple of articles in 2023. The first was a piece entitled Hot Biscuits With Bewick and Bray, published on 1st February, and the second was called Bray-King News Of Jenny´s Next album. Both these articles remain available in our easy to negotiate archives of over 1,000 pieces.
Sidetracks And Detours readers who also join us for our PASS IT ON 25 weekly walkabout Sunday supplement, that was published on Sunday 12th November also featured Jenny Bray.. If you simply type in PASS IT ON 25 into our search engine you´ll find details of her new single, (that will also feature on her forthcoming album, part recorded in America) and the memories and the arts installation that it focuses on. So a serendipitous tuning into Mr. Bewick´s bold mix of jazz styles led to three articles plus the piece you are reading now.
Jenny first bumped into Nashville Producer Justin Johnson in a similar piece of serendipity at ‘The Brain Jar’ Hull UK the summer of 2022, when Justin stepped in at the last minute to play drums for me. She was playing that night with Dave Allott bass and Johnny Diggle, aka ‘JJ’ on sax. Jenny had contacted Osman Nasar, a friend, local business man and great music supporter, to see if he knew any drummers that would like to play the gig and he contacted Justin who he knew was visiting the UK from the States. All the parties worked well together that night and Jenny started chatting to Justin about recording. After a couple of months of meetings and discussions the two of them decided to embark on the project ‘One Hare One Owl’, (sounds Jenny acknowledges sounds like something from the 1968 war film ‘Where Eagles Dare’, with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood!).
Due to time restraints, (Justin was on his way back to the USA) Jenny began recording the piano tracks on an upright acoustic in a small studio Justin had put together above Cornerstone Evangelical Church Bridlington, not far from where she lives on the Yorkshire Wolds, then they went to Beckview Studios Scarborough where Chris Jones recorded Justin playing drums on all 10 tracks
Her two previous albums, ‘Jenny Bray’ and ‘Me’ were recorded with the whole band together in the studio but because she was busy working in the UK and unable to travel at that time, Justin continued working on the record in the USA with a band he put together especially for Jenny´s project with musicians he had worked with before, both live and in recording studios, in Nashville.
Jenny missed not being with the band in the studio but this album has been an amazing learning experience and opened many doors for her as a writer and performer. She has yet to meet the band, something she is eager to do when she travels to Portland Oregon March 2024! She admits she feels very lucky to have four very talented, creative and sympathetic American musicians to work with on ‘One Hare One Owl’, those four being Dave Sims bass, Anthony Reto and Jad Souza guitars and Jeff Steinbock on sax.
The only other Brit on the album is Chris Howard who is also based in the North of England in Liverpool. Straight off a tour with Elvis Costello, Chris added guitar and synth to complete the album.
Justin sings backing vocals and adds beautiful harmonies and textures to the songs and the last track on the album ‘Taurid Meteor’ Jenny sings as a duet with her American friend, singer songwriter Chris Harford, (see Soul Selects) which he recorded in his new studio ‘Studio 17’ in Hopewell NJ. The final part of the album was the mastering done by Mike Monseur Axis Audio Nashville.
So, although Jenny had so graciously brought me up to date to this point with the recording, mixing and mastering is complete and ready for release, and even of how she will be spending the very first day of 2024 promoting the album with a live gig (see right) me and my mates, Messrs, Who, What, When, Where and Why still had half a dozen questions to ask.
WHAT new music did you hear whilst in the USA and how did it impact on you?
It was great to be re-connecting with musicians, and being so inspired by their dedication and talent. In particular Scott Metzger, J P Wasicko, Matt Kohut, Chris Harford and the individuasl and collective sounds they made.
WHAT plans for live work or radio work do you have until the album is released.
We will be giving performances in Bridlington, York, Hull & Bristol. On the radio we´ll be broadcasting from Radio – WDVRfm, Humberside, mixcloud.com & Women in Jazz Media
WHEN you are in the process, albeit towards the conclusion, can you hear in your head what the album is going to sound like, and if so how similar or different will it be to previous recordings.
Gathering songs together for an album happens intuitively as I practice, write and perform over a period of about two 2 years. I find myself focussing on a group of songs that portray my life at this time, and my thoughts and feelings. Some past, some present and some reflective of what’s on the horizon, come into my mind and then the album appears in front of me like a painting, often taking me by surprise.
I recently visited my piano teacher David Ancker in Point Pleasant PA and described how, often when I am composing, I don’t think about anything and somehow let my fingers find the notes themselves, David said ‘That’s always the best way!’ ‘One Hare, One Owl’ is a collection of love songs bounded by anarchy and a cloud of cometary debris.
WHEN will One Hare One Owl be released?
Not long now,…everything is scheduled for 1st December.
WHERE did you perform live at all whilst in the States, and how pleased were you with the reception to new songs that might be on the album.
NJ, PA & VA. I was there for 9 weeks and performed in any small music venue/cafe I could find, often four gigs a week. I had many meetings and conversations with agents, other performers and venues to promote the album and am returning to the States in 2024, to Portland Oregon in the Spring and back East in the summer to continue with concerts and recordings the next album ‘Vocals In Essex’. I was really happy with the reception to the new album.
WHY has this track-list been chosen / written? Can you give any information about the writers, or your own writing or how you came to gather these songs?
I write my own lyrics and also have collections of poems written by friends, Brenda Kirk, Cheryl Baldi, Eric Hammer and Matt Kohut. I am inspired by their work. On this album I used Eric’s ‘Poem For Julia’. Sometimes lyrics also form after conversations I have had and a friend can influence a lyric, eg. ‘Alone To Write’.
I loved writing stories as a child, I made hundreds of books with stories and illustrations, mostly about pony adventures! My love of storytelling has continued in the form of song lyrics. My current single, Ringing Bells, is the story of my son, ringing in the new year with my Dad at St Peter’s church Langtoft East Yorkshire. Angels On The Shore I wrote on Fraisthorpe beach during sunrise and sunset, this experience catapulted me into a phase of creativity which resulted in the album. The title is a line from Taurid Meteor, I was cycling down a lane in Wansford just crossing a stone bridge over a creek when an owl and hare appeared, The owl had been sitting on the bridge and it flew alongside me on my right and a hare running out from the hedge ran alongside me on my left, for a few seconds we were all travelling together.
Alone To Write
Secondhand Newspaper Boy
Everything To Me
Angels On The Shore
Wouldn’t You Be Sorry
Poem For Julia
Dream It True
Ienny tells me that she is very excited about the new album, and over the past couple of weeks, no doubt with heightened sensibilities, she has seen all kinds of signs, such as names of farms etc, that somehow reflect her American experience and the title of the album,
Driving the sidetracks and detours across the Yorkshire wolds, she has noticed one farm apparently called Nashville and another that has the emblems of one hare and one owl on its name-sign. Such portentous signal seem, surely, to be good omens promising that Jenny Bray, and her album One Hare One Owl, part recorded in America might become familiar to fans old and new.
We look forward to offering your own review of the album and those of other jazz media.
Watch this space.