Brian Molley - Saxophonist changes tune while making first album

Brian Molley wasn’t exactly shamed into making his first album. As the saxophonist, who has, at the age of thirty-six, amassed extensive experience in jazz, classical, pop and theatrical projects, sat backstage at Edinburgh Jazz Festival last year, however, something made him realise that he really should put the thoughts he’d been having into action.

The Lothians-based Brazilian bassist Mario Caribe and Molley had just enjoyed a collaboration with two of Caribe’s fellow Brazilians, pianist Fabio Torres and drummer Edu Ribiero, and to mark the end of their spell working together Torres and Ribiero presented Molley with their latest CDs.

“I didn’t have anything to reciprocate with,” says Molley, “and I thought, I’ll have to do something about this because it had been in my mind for a while. It wasn’t that I felt I needed to join the club or anything like that and I’d appeared on other people’s albums often enough. But when you finish someone else’s recording session, you wish them good luck and don’t really think too much about it. Your own recording is different. There are responsibilities. The recording is just the start and I was maybe a bit overawed by that.”

Molley doesn’t sound overawed on Clock, the album that he launches next week in Glasgow. It’s an assured debut in terms of the playing, the compositions and the arrangements, which became a good deal less complicated than planned once the recording process began.

“I had intended doing quite a lot of overdubbing,” he says. “For instance, I wanted to show that I play more than saxophone and I’d considered adding flute to some of the tracks. In the end, I decided against that and actually there’s no flute at all. There’s some bass clarinet on one track and on another I play all the instruments but that’s not as complicated as you might imagine because it only took about half-an-hour from start to finish.”

His decision to go for simplicity and clarity and his general approach to playing tenor saxophone has resulted in Clock having something of a Stan Getz quality. Getz became an early favourite after Molley’s saxophone teacher at school who was in the habit of passing his tapes of people he should listen to, introduced him to the tenorist’s ultra-popular Jazz Samba album and the 1957 recording, Stan Getz and the Oscar Peterson Trio, which remains Molley’s favourite album.

“I listened to those albums a lot and then I got into John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and especially, Dexter Gordon,” says Molley. “Getz doesn’t get the recognition that Coltrane and Rollins get, yet he was a great player. He was so inventive. His sound is beautiful and he didn’t play chops, didn’t show off his technique, it was more like he was singing. I’ve always had a thing for Brazilian music, which I probably got directly from Getz, and I wanted to bring that out on the album, particularly since I have Mario in the quartet. So I can’t deny he was an influence.”

Another influence on Clock was Gil Evans, whose arrangements for Miles Davis had some bearing on the sound of Molley’s multi-tracked reeds on the lovely Destinesia. It’s the one track that doesn’t feature Molley with his superb rhythm section, which comprises pianist Tom Gibbs and drummer Stuart Brown alongside the aforementioned Caribe.

“I had two tunes that were composed before I started work on the album,” says Molley. “But I had a pretty clear idea of the shape of the whole album when I began adding to them and although I had some ideas for overdubs that didn’t happen, I really wanted to show what the quartet is about because that’s my main focus at the moment. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been kept busy with other people’s projects over years but in a way that can make you a bit lazy as far as your own music goes. I’ve enjoyed the whole process of making Clock, from composing to sending out review copies – it’s been a real learning experience - and while we have a few gigs coming up as a quartet, I’d like to get a lot more work in 2014 so that we can develop the band and the music as an entity.”

From The Herald, October 23, 2013.

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