For his first serving of Hot Biscuits in 2024 radio presenter Steve Bewick (below left) laid on some fine fare. Amidst healthy portions of fine jazz Steve introduced the album by Jenny Bray, played some tracks off the album and spoke to Jenny about them. The interview made really good listening and Steve and Jenny have graciously allowed me to set the interview into print on our pages to share with our readers
Welcome to ´the studio´ though this, of course, is your second visit here. Not too many artists make it for a second time´.
I´m very pleased to be on Hot Biscuits again, and Ï really appreciate you taking the interest. Its really lovely that you are taking the time to talk to me and to play my music.
Well, we have good reason for talking to you again. Your new CD has just been released.
Yes, although we have heard all sorts of permutations of the title we gave it of One Hare One Owl. It is often turned the other way round and we´ve had one hare one rabbit and all sorts of things. The final word, though, is that the title is ONE HARE ONE OWL !
The album has taken about a year from the first idea for it, and its been pretty much a year in the recording. Even so, that year went quite quickly really but I look back at it now and am surprised by how much we completed in that time. I was working with producer Justin Johnson, and we´ve done so much work in the year when I look back even though there were times when we felt the process might have been slowing down. Now I am genuinely amazed at how much we achieved. There are ten songs on the album, recorded with six absolutely fantastic musicians. I mean, really outstanding musicians, most of whom are based over in the States.
The album was made available on-line on on 1st December 2023- I´d like to release it, too, in the more usual format of a cd with a decent sleeve and notes, and I´m looking into that at the moment. I´m considering putting it out on vinyl, too, but I haven´t had time to think about the artwork yet. I´m too busy writing songs, actually. When I´m not performing, or promoting or doing admin I´m sitting at the piano. I love sitting at the piano but it sometimes feels there´s all this other stuff to do.
And do those times sitting at the piano turn into future songs?
Yes, they do. In fact, even now I have enough material for another album. That has to stay in the background, though, for a while because they are pretty expensive to put together.
I thought we´d play three tracks if we may, and perhaps start with Second Hand Newspaper Boy if that´s ok with you?
That´s fine. I think of the album One Hare One Owl As being a collection of love songs bound by anarchy and a cloud of cometary debris.´and the anarchy comes in the form of Second Hand Newspaper Boy, which is the second song on the album. I just thought of the fact that I´m a piano teacher and I have children, and worry about what´s going on in the world today. We think of our children and what they make of this world and how they will cope with it really. I don´t think you can get away from that really. It seems always at the front of your mind, wondering how do we cope with the world as it is and with the leaders that we have in power. So this song is about a little boy who is delivering newspapers, and he´s reading them as he does so and he becomes so frightened by the news that he won´t deliver the newspapers and he decides he would prefer to deliver second-hand newspapers, from when stories were more positive. Its about a boy who´s frightened by what´s going on in the world. So that´s the song, Second-Hand Newspaper Boy. I hope it comes across as a very powerful song, with a driving rhythm to it. Its got an interesting chordal-section.. a series of descending chromatics with some really crunching chords. So, I hope you enjoy it.
Our second selection of three songs off your album is going to be Dream It True. Would you like to tell us about the musicians playing on this one?
Yes. I´m playing the piano on the track and Justin Johnson, the producer, is playing the drums and singing backing vocals, Dave Simms is on the bass and Jad Souza on guitar with Jess Steinbok on saxophone. They are all American musicians who live and work in the USA and the only other Brit on the track is Chris Howard from Liverpool, and he´s playing keyboards and some guitar.
That was a track by Jenny Bray off her album One Hare One Owl. The final song we have selected to complement this interview about her new album is Ringing Bells. What can you tell us about that Jenny?
So this is a true story of one New Years Eve when my youngest son went up into the Belfry of St Peter´s Church in Lantoff and he and my father, a minster, rang the bells to summon in the New Year. William was only about eight years old and he thought it was really exciting to go up into the Belfry with his grandfather. Ringing the church bells at midnight was real fun for him, and it had been snowing earlier in the evening, so he built a snowman while we lit sparklers for New Year in our garden. So he and I have vivid memories of the occasion and they are all collected in this song. In fact it is the same group of musicians, as mentioned earlier, who are playing on Ringing Bells.
So, just before we play this track would you like to let our listeners know where they can get hold of this single, and indeed, the album One Hare One Owl from which it is taken¿
We include (left) a photograph of a new arts installation on a beach near her home that she was aware of at the time of writing her song and of how it ´rings´ the tidal ebb and flow
If listeners would like to check out my details on line about gigs, recordings and other news that would be fine. Perhaps if any listeners should contact Hot Biscuits or any readers of PASS IT ON or Sidetracks and Detours should contact Norman that would be great, thank you.
Of course, now it has been released on line the album is available on all major platforms like Bandcamp, for instance, and Spotify and You Tube and the usual names. And then I´ll be going back to America to take the album on a tour. I was there last year for nine weeks in the summer, and playing three or four gigs a week. This was across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia.
This year, 2024, I´m going over to Oregaon at Easter to meet up with Justin and we´re going to do a little bit more recording,… and promotion for the album. Then I´ll be back in the UK for May, June and July before heading back to the East Coast of America for the summer when there are all manner of clubs and festivals and gigs.
So, its an exciting and busy time, and thank you for having me here on Hot Biscuits.
Editor´s Note:Sidetracks and Detours highly recommend this album, that confirms Jenny Bray´s storytelling and lyrical skills and that she can adapt her vocal skills and excellent piano technique into any musical line up. She can also obviously identify great players and producers and this album benefits from high production values and fine and exciting musicianship.
And then there is her unique voice, that makes itself securely linked to surrounding music, and fits between so many instruments and makes itself heard without ever having to scream or shout.
Second-Hand-Newspaper Boy joins a pantheon of songs referring to newspapers and newspaper boys. There is Jimmie Brown The Newsboy, written by A P Carter and recorded by Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and my generation will never forgot Don McLean waking up to the ´bad news on the doorstep´ that told us of the aeroplane crash that took Buddy Holly and of course John Lennon´s dis-spirited sigh that he “read the news today,.Oh Boy´.”
The musical arrangements on One Hare One Owl are always interesting, and on some tracks are utterly surprising and amazing. Pounding, driving,but always controlled percussions sit alongside a moody and yearning saxophone for instance.
Jenny also applies her staccato lyrics again on Dream It True.
That she can then tell a remembered event in such beautiful, freeze-frame images, as she does on Ringing Bells, not only shows her versatility as a lyricist but also preserves a family memory for perpetuity.
Jenny Bray is a popular and ubiquitous figure in UK jazz and prior to this album she has surrounded herself with some of the finest British musicians.
One Hare One Owl is surely a radio-friendly, well crafted album of words and music that deserves to be heard and if this Transatlantic bridge between her and this group of American musicians and producer can be cemented then, and she retains content and access to her previous musicians then Jazz has a new force on its hands that might be at ease in the States as it is in the UK.