Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review
Jazz saxophonist Ben Britton, a virtuoso and creative force, is an active performer throughout the northeast United States. Britton's talents as a saxophonist and composer were first nationally recognized in 2007 when he was selected to participate in a residency at the Kennedy Center with veteran musicians Billy Taylor, Curtis Fuller, Nathan Davis, Winard Harper, Chip Jackson, and Carmen Lundy in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program. Britton has also recorded and performed with both world renown musicians like Chris Potter and Bobby Sanabria as well as rising stars from the younger generation. His debut album as a leader, Uncertain Living, received critical acclaim from critics at All About Jazz, Jazz Review, and many others. He also performed on the album Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! which was nominated for best Latin Jazz Album at the 2011 Latin Grammys. His most recent release, an EP titled Children at Play, features Philadelphia musicians and a unique brand of jazz with influences ranging from African music to modern rock.
Britton's earliest introduction to music was the piano which he began learning at a young age. It wasn't until years later that he heard the saxophone live at a school performance and decided to learn it. In high school, surrounded by working musicians like his band director Phil Butts and sax teachers Dale Barton and Matt Belzer, Britton decided to pursue a career as a professional musician. After high school he immediately enrolled at University of North Texas for a short period, and then left to prepare to leave on a Mormon mission. In those few months Britton worked on a collection of transcriptions of solos by Chris Potter in hopes of publication. Throughout the process he worked with Potter and had the opportunity to take a couple lessons, all of which played a role in shaping his development.
After Britton had served a two year mission in Brazil he returned to the states and resumed his studies now at Eastman School of music, where his brother, John, was studying trumpet. At Eastman Britton studied with saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, and also took a couple lessons with saxophonist Rich Perry, both of which were strong influences on his playing. It was during his time at Eastman that he was selected to participate in the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead residency at the Kennedy center. After graduation from Eastman, Britton moved with his wife and children to New York to pursue a masters at Manhattan School of Music. While in New York he found mentors in the great jazz recordings of the past becoming especially engrossed in Bird. Britton also had the opportunity to study with George Garzone and Steve Wilson, and he found further influences on the New York scene in the playing of Chris Cheek and Mark Turner. During this time Britton played with many fantastic younger jazz musicians including Jeremy Siskind, Sullivan Fortner, Matt Robins, Austin Walker, and Taylor Waugh. It was also during this time that Britton collaborated with his brother, John, on their album, Uncertain Living, and toured the northeast US promoting the album.
From there Britton and his ever growing family moved to the greater Philadelphia area, where he formed his own group, Unconventional Riot, and plays with other various groups including a jazz group led by drummer Gabriel Globus-Hoenich. Britton can be heard performing throughout the area and regularly at Chris' Jazz Cafe, currently Philadelphia's only dedicated jazz club.
Britton has simultaneously pursued teaching. As an adjunct Britton has taught at University of Pennsylvania, Ursinus College, Montgomery County Community College and Chesnut Hill College and Montgomery County Community College. He has also given clinics at both the university and high school level coaching jazz bands and saxophone sections and teaching and presenting to music classes. An innovate educator, Britton's 2010 record release included unique online content: play-along tracks of compositions from the record, transcriptions and analyses of Chris Potter's solos from the album, and other instructional material. Britton's academic efforts also extend into the world of blogging. His blog, Everything Saxophone, is followed internationally and serves as a resource to students of saxophone and students of jazz and improvisation.