Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review
Saxophonist Ben Britton is an active educator and performer in the U.S. His talents as a musician and composer were first nationally recognized in 2007 when he was selected to participate in a residency at the Kennedy Center as part of the Betty Carter Jazz Ahead program. Following that, Britton recorded and performed with both world-renowned musicians like Chris Potter and Bobby Sanabria as well as rising stars from the younger generation. His most recent recording as a leader, an EP titled Children at Play, features Philadelphia based musicians and a unique brand of jazz with influences ranging from African music to modern rock. He also performed on the album Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!!, which was nominated for best Latin Jazz Album at the 2011 Latin Grammys. In 2012, Britton participated in two national saxophone competitions placing as a finalist in the Detroit Jazz Festival National Saxophone Competition and winning the First Annual Charlie Parker Cutting Contest hosted by NPR's 12th Street Jump.
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 moved his ever growing family to the greater Philadelphia area, where he formed his own group, Unconventional Riot, and pursued his career as a music educator. He held adjunct teaching positions at various colleges including University of Pennsylvania and Ursinus College. With his brother, John Britton, he developed a curriculum for learning to improvise over odd time signatures including play-alongs of original compositions, recordings of solos by Chris Potter over those compositions, and transcriptions and solo analyses as well. They published the materials in tandem with their record, Uncertain Living, and they are now be found on this site on the lessons section. Britton also writes a blog, Everything Saxophone, that features various articles on saxophone technique, equipment, and jazz improvisation.
Britton self-published his first book, A Complete Approach to Sound for the Modern Saxophonist, in 2012. Walt Wieskopf, a fantastic saxophonist and educator, and Dave Liebman, an NEA Jazz Master, both endorsed the book, which was also received warmly by saxophonist pedagogues like Bret Pimentel from Delta State University and David Valdez of Portland State University. Currently pursuing a DMA in jazz studies at the Eastman School of Music, Britton resides in Spencerport, New York with his wife and seven children.