Sam Braysher Trio at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho

The alto saxophonist and young old soul shows his deep admiration for the Great American Songbook

The Sam Braysher trio and Sara Dowling at Pizza Express, Soho. Photo by Thomas Fletcher

Dave Kelly is quoted in the Guardian as saying, “I can’t think of another alto saxophonist with a sound quite like Sam Braysher’s”. On this date, Braysher brought his trio with Tom Farmer (b) and Josh Morrison (d) alongside special guest Sara Dowling (v) to Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, for an afternoon of accessible jazz. The concert was held to promote his second album Dance Little Lady, Dance Little Man.

I first met Braysher at a jazz history class hosted by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied. We discussed The Great American Songbook as well as his passion for early repertoire. That knowledge and affection for the art form was presented in his set between pieces.

The live music began with Heart and Soul, a song by Hoagy Carmichael which Braysher had completely revamped. This was followed by a tune named Shall We Dance, its lyrics forming the inspiration for the title of his second album.

Another notable feature was Little White Lies, which is claimed to be John Lennon’s most loved song. As Farmer took a solo, Braysher was never afraid to act as a chordal instrument highlighting the harmony in absence of a piano or guitar.

As the second set began, we were introduced to the fabulous Sara Dowling, who described Braysher as an “old soul”; one can only assume she was referring to his taste in music. Her voice filled the entire room and captured the crowd’s attention. Dowling reminded me of singers including Dinah Washington and Dakota Staton with her prominent vibrato and extensive range. Dowling’s confident and well-presented personality seemed to work well against Braysher’s unassuming onstage character.

Overall, Braysher’s band leadership was clearly evident through his saxophone playing and body language. Each solo was carefully executed. The fact that this was a trio setting meant Braysher needed to extend his solos, however his creativity came across naturally. The energy he brought to the performance was welcomed by every member of the audience, and that’s just me describing his groovy summer shirt.

Sam Braysher Trio, Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, 1 August 2021