My favourite time of year
I'm sure I've written about how much I love the Autumn before, but as September draws near I can't help repeating myself. Thinking of Scottish jazz fixtures in early Autumn, it has to be Islay Jazz Festival! I will be there playing some solo piano and with Colin Steele Quintet. I went to see the quintet often when I was getting started, and so it will possibly be a little surreal playing that music myself, but I'm very much looking forward to it.
Before that, a wee recording session with Fat-Suit doing some new tunes, so keep an eye out for that! Then later in the month Mezcla play at Glasgow's new jazz venue, The Blue Arrow, and I'll be playing with Brian Molley in New Galloway. Also doing a wee interview for an episode of The Jazz Podcast - a fun, chatty show that already features some of my favourite musicians - and I'll let you know when that's available. Looking further ahead, I'm gearing up for various recordings later in the year and a wee trio tour in November, more news on that soon...
Time for a wee holiday
Well, that was a blast - 7 very enjoyable gigs at Edinburgh Jazz Festival, trio reunited in Wigan, Fat-Suit playing at a country music festival (I saw Steve Earle!), various bits and bobs, woah! Time for a wee holiday to the beautiful Isle of Arran. I've been over a good few times for gigs, but never just to relax and see the island, so really looking forward to that.
Before that, I will be heading down to the World Shakuhachi Festival in London to play with Zac Zinger. Zac is a friend and colleague from Berklee days, a multi-instrumentalist and composer/arranger/general badass - and yes, he will be playing jazz shakuhachi (it's a Japanese bamboo flute, and one of the go-to instruments for a "sound of Japan").
After I get back, I'll be playing at the notorious Boomtown festival with Fat-Suit and then at Dunoon Jazz Festival with Luca Manning - two VERY different gigs right there! I'll then be playing with Scottish Young Jazz Musician of the Year, Joe Williamson, for a live broadcast of BBC3's Jazz Now from their Edinburgh International Festival tent. Should be a nice way to round off a brilliant summer!
Oh, and I went over to play some tunes with Andrew the other day and he gave me a wee present... Guess it will live with me for a while and who knows, maybe with Marton after that?
Summer is here and looking like it's going to be a good one, so lots of tennis for me, right? Well, maybe not. What is getting in the way of my (fairly healthy) addiction? Thankfully, it's gigs, and plenty of them. I have 7 gigs coming up in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, the trio are playing at Wigan Jazz Festival, and Fat-Suit are playing at Under the Stars Festival in Yorkshire. I won't list them all here, that's what the gigs page is for! But it's going to be a fun July and my birthday is even in there somewhere too...
Over the moon to announce that Little Mysteries won Best Album in the 2018 Scottish Jazz Awards!! Thanks so much to everyone that voted for us, we are so thrilled that people liked the music enough to support us.
I wasn't actually able to attend the awards ceremony, as I was in France having an absolutely wonderful few days doing a play with music about Chet Baker, with trumpeter Colin Steele and actor Mike Maran. The play was great fun, the weather was fantastic, the food delicious and the hospitality outstanding - I was very reluctant to come home I must say!! Anyway, Andrew attended the ceremony on behalf of the trio and he scrubs up rather well, as you can see. I guess he'll be keeping hold of the trophy for a while...
Now looking forward to a rare Alan Benzie Quartet gig at the Jazz Bar on the 13th of June, then the Glasgow Jazz Festival - the Mezcla gig at Stereo on the 21st is going to be monstrous - we'll be playing some new music and doing a cool collaboration with visual artist Jamie Johnson. I'm also in a new put together by Scottish Young Jazz Musician of the Year Joe Williamson (also known for Square One and Spark Trio and pictured at Jazzahead, below). He's written some heavy stuff, which we'll be premiering at Bar Bloc later in the month. Also playing some groovy jazz/funk with Malcolm MacFarlane and a tribute to Chet Baker with Luca Manning - check out the gigs page for more details of all that. Woohoo!!
Just a wee update
Well, it's been a good couple of months. Been having a great time playing quite a few gigs with Mezcla, particularly Jazz in the Round in London - that is a cool gig!
I was also delighted to be one of the artists selected by Jazz From Scotland for support to attend Jazzahead, a massive jazz conference/expo/festival that happens in Bremen every April. It was a very intense experience, but also very interesting and useful and I hope to go again in the years to come. Thanks so much to Jazz From Scotland and Creative Scotland, as well as Music from Ireland, Improvised Music Company, Culture Ireland and the Irish Arts Council for making it all happen.
May highlights include BBC Biggest Weekend with Mezcla in Perth on the 25th and trumpet beast Ryan Quigley's Quintet at Ronnie Scott's on the 29th. As ever, you can find details of these and others on the gigs page.
Voting is also still open for the 2018 Scottish Jazz Awards! Head over to http://www.jazzfest.co.uk/awards/ and check it out if you haven't already.
Scottish Jazz Awards
Really happy to announce that Little Mysteries is up for Best Album in the 2018 Scottish Jazz Awards! We are really proud of it, both the music and everything it took to get it done and out there, so we are very pleased that it was considered worthy of a nomination. I'm also up for Best Band with both Fat-Suit and Mezcla. If you would like to vote for us then you can do so here: http://www.jazzfest.co.uk/awards/ - deadline is the 24th of May and the ceremony will be on the 3rd of June. Fingers crossed...
You Must Believe In Spring
Originally "Chanson de Maxence", the English adaption of the Legrand/Demy song (probably best known to jazz lovers through piano great Bill Evans) has a rather different meaning to the original. It seems rather apt at the moment though, where heavy snowfall and generally miserable conditions seem to leave us with no option but to believe that Spring will come, despite all signs to the contrary. So, less tennis than I had hoped for in the relative calm after our release tour (at least it's a healthy addiction), but thankfully playing piano is an indoor activity most of the time. We have started getting some very nice reviews in for Little Mysteries, which create some warmth in the heart at least! This one from Ian Mann is particularly in depth - it's great that some people are still writing in long form in an age of character limits and sound bites. You can read it here: http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/alan-benzie-trio-little-mysteries/
All good things, Little Mysteries and Aberdeen Jazz Festival
I had an amazing time with Andrew and Marton on our release tour for "Little Mysteries" - 9 countries, 14 cities, 16 concerts and countless good memories! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, but we will be back and looking forward to seeing some familiar and friendly faces next time. Thanks so much to everyone who came out to hear us in all these different places and made it so special for us - if you want to stay up to date then you can join my mailing list using the subscribe buttons on this site or like my Facebook page.
Little Mysteries is now fully available, and you can purchase digital copies on CD Baby (or iTunes etc, but CD Baby is a better deal for musicians...). For physical copies you can get in touch with me.
I'm now looking forward to playing with Fat-Suit and very talented young saxophonist Matt Carmichael at the Aberdeen Jazz Festival on the 17th and 18th of March. As ever, you can find more details on exactly where and when on the gigs page. Hopefully see some of you there!
Happy New Year 2018 and "Little Mysteries" Release Tour
Happy 2018! This time of year can often drag a bit, with winter in full effect, and Christmas and Hogmanay no longer providing that festive focal point. But this is not the case for me this year, as I have the release of "Little Mysteries", our new Alan Benzie Trio album, to look forward to! We will be touring for a good chunk of February, here's where and when:
6/2: Opus Jazz Club, Budapest, Hungary
7/2: Metronom Jazz Club, Pecs, Hungary
8/2: ZWE Jazz Club, Vienna, Austria
9/2: Unterfahrt Jazz Club, Munich, Germany
10/2: Reduta Jazz Club, Prague, Czech Republic
11/2: Galeria Batko, Krakow, Poland
12/2: Kornet Jazz Club, Krakow, Poland
13/2: DALI Club, Krakow, Poland
14/2: Mozi Club, Samorin, Slovakia
15/2: B-Flat Jazz Club, Berlin, Germany
16/2: Jazzlines at Symphony Hall Foyer, Birmingham, England
18/2: Websters Theatre, Glasgow, Scotland
19/2: Arthur's, Dublin, Ireland
20/2: Ronnie Scott's, London, England
21/2: The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, Scotland
22/2: The Jazz Co-op, Newcastle, England
I'll be updating the gigs page with more specifics on each gig as we get the final details, so check back there for more info!
"Little Mysteries" New Trio Video
The first video from the studio session for "Little Mysteries" is live - check it out!
Somehow, it's December...
It's been an interesting couple of months, can't believe the year is nearly done! The new album is coming along nicely, and we are really looking forward to releasing it February. We've had some super fun gigs with Fat-Suit, including a live recording alongside Jacob Collier for the BBC, which will be available on BBC iPlayer soon. Also had a lovely time at Dundee Jazz Festival with young vocalist Luca Manning, where we were supporting Becca Stevens - her music is just so cool, check her out if you aren't familiar with her already! I also did an interview with American jazz writer Debbie Burke, which you can read here: Interview with Debbie
Just a couple of gigs left before Christmas, the highlights are a really fun double bill with Mezcla and Oxtered to the Bothy in Glasgow on the 11th, and Leah Gough-Cooper's Human Equivalent in Edinburgh on the 23rd. More details on the gigs page.
Best wishes for the festive season!
We did it!!
Delighted to announce that we exceeded our crowdfunder target - thank you so much to everyone that supported us! We will be releasing the album in February 2018, with a tour in Europe and the UK. More details to follow - you can check back here, or sign up to my mailing list and I'll let you know as things progress.
About that second album...
The rough tracks that we recorded at Castlesound Studios for our second Alan Benzie Trio album a while back are sounding great, and we are now looking for some help to finish the album (these things cost a lot of money!). Check out this video and our crowdfunder page where you can learn more and contribute (with some nice rewards).
"...September days are here, with summer’s best of weather and autumn’s best of cheer"
"Hard to imagine Helen Hunt Jackson writing this if she lived in Scotland", I think to myself as I watch the rain run down the window, but that can't diminish my excitement that autumn is coming - that wonderful season of warmth and chill, the changing colours, optimism and wistfulness - I love it! It's been a fantastic Summer: some great festival gigs with Fat-Suit, lots of fun with Mezcla, Edinburgh Jazz Festival and as much tennis as I could get in around all that... That's not to mention the undoubted highlight of the year for me, recording our second Alan Benzie Trio album! Getting that all ready for release will be one of my main activities this Autumn, and we will be releasing it in February 2018. I'll be announcing tour dates for that too, so keep an eye out.
Looking forward to more Mezcla and Fat-Suit good times too, and more immediately, Islay Jazz Festival. More details on the gigs page, hope to see some of you there - do come and say hello!
Edinburgh Jazz Festival
Just a wee heads up about some gigs coming up in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, with my Piano Playlist project, a Birth of the Cool recreation project, and up and coming young vocalist Luca Manning. More details on the gigs page!
Scottish Jazz Awards and Trio Time
I'm delighted to announce that I've been nominated in the Rising Star category of the 2017 Scottish Jazz Awards, and also for Best Band and Best Album with Fat-Suit. While it does require a name and email address (to stop anyone cheating I guess!), there are only 5 categories and it should only take a minute or two at most. I'd really appreciate your vote - please follow this link: http://www.jazzfest.co.uk/awards/
Also very excited to have Marton and Andrew here next week, rehearsing some new Alan Benzie Trio material and generally making some nice music. Here's a wee reminder that we have ONE GIG in Scotland for the next good while, and it is next Thursday the 25th of May, at 8.30pm - don't miss it!
Piano Playlist and Spring highlights
Had a fantastic gig last night with my Piano Playlist project. A big thank you to Stephen and Brodie on drums and bass, to everyone at the Jazz Bar, and to everyone who came and listened so intently and applauded so enthusiastically - it's not always you can hear a pin drop in there, and it was such a pleasure to play in that environment! Quite a few of you signed up to my mailing list, but if there's anyone who missed that and would like to be in touch, you can sign up using the subscribe button at the bottom of this page, or get in touch through the contact page.
There are a couple of things I'm particularly looking forward to at the moment: Firstly, I'm recording some music in a couple of weeks, with a new band featuring Davie Dunsmuir on guitar, Gus Stirrat on bass, and Mark Scobbie on drums. We've all written some tunes and we've been having a lot of fun playing together - I'll post links to that when it's available.
Secondly, I'm getting together with Marton and Andrew for some more Alan Benzie Trio rehearsing in May. We will also be playing ONE GIG only, at the Jazz Bar on the 25th of May, including some new music that we still haven't played live yet. Come on down and be the first to hear it, it's shaping up very nicely!
Aberdeen Jazz Festival, "I'm sorry, could you say that again?" and Jazz Bar Galore
Thanks so much to everyone who came along to the Blue Lamp for my gigs in the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, it was great fun playing to packed rooms and appreciative ears both nights! There are a couple of wee clips of each gig on my Facebook page.
I also found myself doing something rather different recently, interpreting Japanese-English for a semiconductor company near Glasgow! I have enjoyed learning Japanese for quite a few years and it was a lot of fun putting that skill to the test in a different situation than I'm used to (chatting to friends, talking at gigs etc). I learned some new words too, although not really the kind you would use in everyday conversation to be honest!
I have 3 gigs coming up at the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh - 2 "World Premier Quintet" sessions on Saturday the 25th of March and 1st of April, and another edition of my "Piano Playlist" gig on the Wednesday the 5th of April (all at 8.30pm). Piano Playlist features tunes by my favourite piano players, and this edition has Stephen Henderson on drums, and Brodie Jarvie on bass (back from Amsterdam for a few days). Please do come down if you are in Edinburgh!
On the horizon (or a bit closer really)
It's been a great first bit of the year - Fat-Suit's gig at Celtic Connections was the definite February highlight. Now I'm really looking forward to 2 gigs in the Aberdeen Jazz Festival that are happening very soon: solo piano on the 15th of March at 8pm, and with Fat-Suit on the 18th of March at 11pm (both at the Blue Lamp). Come along and say hi if you are around!
Happy New Year
A rather belated one, admittedly! I’m really looking forward to 2017 - there are some exciting things in the pipeline with the trio and with Fat-Suit, as well as a few other projects and bits and bobs.
I really enjoyed getting together with Andrew and Marton to rehearse new material and experiment in November, and looking forward to sharing some of that over the next while. I’ll be sharing mostly through my new Facebook page, which will have slightly more regular updates, including stuff we are doing with the trio, Fat-Suit and other things I’m getting up to. If you would like to keep up to date with that, please head on over and give the page a like.
More immediately, Fat-Suit open up our 2017 with a gig at Celtic Connections, on Thursday the 2nd of February. We’ll be returning to St Luke’s and The Winged Ox, where we had an incredible album launch towards the end of last year. Further details here:
Trio assemble, judgements and the end draws near (kind of)...
Really enjoyed being down in London for a few days to rehearse, practice and generally try out various ideas with the trio for 5 days. Seeing as the London Jazz Festival was on at the same time, it would have been crazy not to catch a few gigs while I was down - my personal highlight was Julian Lage Trio, just incredible!
Not long after returning to Glasgow, I had the pleasure of being a judge for the semi-final of the Scottish Young Jazz Musician of the Year. I remember judging the final a few years ago, and being very impressed at the standard of playing and musicianship, and this was no different. I very much enjoyed listening to all the young musicians do their thing - a bit less pleasurable to try and pick only 5 to go through to the final mind you!
I then had back-to-back gigs at the Jazz Bar, the first being an outing for my “Piano Playlist” project (playing the music of some of my favourite pianists) with Doug Hough and Euan Burton, and the second being reunited with my dear friend and amazing saxophonist/composer Leah Gough-Cooper for her quartet. Both were great fun and many thanks to everyone who came out to listen.
Now looking forward to my last couple of gigs with Fat-Suit before Christmas, in Aberdeen (at the Blue Lamp of course!) and Inverness (at the Tooth and Claw), on the 14th and 15th of December respectively. We all know what happens after that…
A big thanks to everyone who has come to gigs, bought CDs and sent lovely messages this year, I can't wait to make more music for you in 2017. See you next year!
Fat Suit in Europe and Album Launch
Had an absolute blast in the Czech Republic and Poland with Fat Suit, great audiences, lots of delicious food, marvelous buildings and good times. Fat Suit then expanded considerably for our album launch in Glasgow, adding string octet, because why not? It was immense fun, thanks to everyone that came to pack the place full and danced, shouted and just generally made us feel fantastic. For anyone who missed it, or isn't able to catch us live, you can get the album here:
It's Too Darn Hot
Otherwise known as August in Japan - brutal! I got heatstroke the night I arrived, and took hydration and air conditioning much more seriously after that... On a brighter note, I had some lovely gigs and enjoyed catching up with my friends in Tokyo. The highlight was playing with Yumi Sugimoto's Jazz Orchestra in Kawagoe, Saitama. Kawagoe escaped much damage during World War II, and is often referred to as 小江戸 (Koedo or "Little Edo"), as it still has many buildings from the Edo period.
I have been playing Yumi's music since we studied together at Berklee College of Music, and have always very much enjoyed her sound world - it's a pianist's dream! Yumi had also arranged a Scottish tune for this concert, so I ended up with the somewhat intimidating experience of trying to explain it to a few hundred Japanese people in Japanese. I think I at least managed to avoid accidentally saying anything offensive or strange...
I'm always sad to leave Japan, but Narita Airport lifted my spirits beautifully with a classic piece of "might have been worth checking that one" English...
Looking forward to touring with Fat Suit in the Czech Republic and Poland soon, and the album release is just around the corner. The official launch will be at St Luke's & The Winged Ox in Glasgow, on the 30th of October - come and join in the madness!
About last night...
Just wanted to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who came out to the Piano Playlist gig last night at the Jazz Bar for the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. It was fantastic to have the room packed full, and what an incredible vibe! We had an absolute blast playing for you all. Hope to see you again next time, and if you’d like to be in touch in the meantime, give me a shout through the Contact page.
Fat-Suit shenanigans, Edinburgh Jazz Festival and Japan (again)
I’ve been having a great time playing with Fat-Suit in various places around Scotland in the last couple of months. The highlight has to go to Shetland, what a beautiful place and what wonderful people! It was my first time up there and I can’t wait to go back. I also hear the new album is very close to being ready, I’ll link to it when it's out, but here's the wee teaser video in the meantime:
I’ve also been working on a lovely gig coming up in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, where I’ll be playing music by 10 of my favourite piano players with Andrew Robb on bass and Neil Paton on drums. It was tough to pick just 10, but the gig has to end at some point! I’m really looking forward to playing with Andrew and Neil and do hope you will come and join us if you are around - we are playing on Saturday the 16th of July, at 8pm in the Jazz Bar on Chambers Street:
I’ll also be playing with Fat-Suit on the 24th at La Belle Angele:
I’m off to Japan again right after that, and very much looking forward to it. I’ve never been at this time of year before, so here’s hoping my poor Scottish body can cope with the heat and humidity (our summer isn’t exactly scorching). I hear there are flying cockroaches at this time of year too, just for good measure!
Hope to see some of you in Edinburgh, Tokyo or somewhere else - またね!
Alan Benzie Trio on BBC Radio 3
The live session we did with the trio for The Jazz House is going to be re-broadcast on BBC Radio 3's "Jazz Line-Up" on Saturday the 16th of April! It's a great show and I'm delighted that they liked the music so much.
I went into the BBC yesterday to do a wee interview to go along with the music. We talked about some of the things that shape my writing, a little bit about how I came to music and jazz, and some non-music things too - including learning to speak Japanese and playing tennis. If you'd like to hear about some of that and the trio playing a few tunes from "Traveller's Tales", do tune in on the 16th at 5pm! They also asked me to speak a wee bit of Japanese, so who knows, that may make it onto the show at some point too...
Christmas and New Year in Japan, and Traveller's Tales featured in BBC's "The Jazz House" review of 2015
I had an absolute blast in Japan during the festive season, catching up with some of my friends from Berklee, eating far too much delicious food and making some great music! My first gig of the New Year was with Japanese trumpet player Takuya Kuroda, who's Blue Note album "Rising Son" I had been listening to quite a lot throughout 2015 - if you haven't heard it, do check it out. It was such fun to play some of that music with the man himself, and he sounded great on my tunes too. He also has a very funny sense of humour, I could barely eat dinner for laughing!
Joining us on drums was Shun Ishiwaka, who I was also very excited to play with, as he played drums on the soundtrack for a great jazz anime, "Sakamichi no Apollon". I watched the show when it came out, and I remember thinking, "Holy sh*t, that drummer sounds fantastic". Little did I realise that the guy playing was only a little older than the high school character he was musically portraying! I think Shun is 23 now, and sounded incredible - I wasn't surprised to hear he was getting a sore back from being so busy...
While I was in Japan, I was honoured and delighted to hear that "Traveller's Tales" was featured alongside the likes of Kamasi Washington, GoGo Penguin and Liane Carroll as one of BBC Radio Scotland's "The Jazz House" albums of the year in their review of 2015! We had a great time doing a live session for them around the time of the release tour and we're really pleased they liked the album so much.
After what seemed like a blink of an eye it was time to say goodbye and head back to Scotland. I'm now looking forward to another couple of gigs with Fat-Suit in Glasgow and Aberdeen, where we'll be playing some of the music from the new album, which I think is due to be released later this year. Glasgow is the 17th of March at Stereo, and Aberdeen is on the 19th of March at the Blue Lamp, as part of the Aberdeen Jazz Festival. Do come along and say hello if you are in the area!
What the critics are saying about "Traveller's Tales"
In my last post, I mentioned that we've had some lovely reviews coming in for "Traveller's Tales, and I thought I'd share a few of the nice things people have been saying about us in newspapers and online...
“Andrew Robb and Marton Juhasz on bass and drums are all about close ensemble interaction, and sometimes it’s as if their sounds were coming out from the inside of Benzie’s piano... Benzie’s playing has a hushed yet yearning quality to it; an exquisite touch and elegant virtuosity make for a thoroughly engaging listen.” Jazzwise
“Tasteful and well-judged, this trio makes a terrific team… (Benzie) has created a set of memorable tunes and his playing, plus that of his colleagues, is exemplary throughout. There is a radiance and beauty about this music and “Traveller’s Tales” deserves to bring Benzie to the attention of the wider jazz public.” The Jazz Mann
"This has to be one of the best debut albums for some time..." Sandy Brown Jazz
"Benzie doesn't sound like a young artist struggling for a voice... There's an affecting sense of place in the quiet ostinatos and modulations of Hazy Dawns...but with drummer Marton Juhasz and bassist Andrew Robb, the trio fire up plenty of dynamism too..." The Guardian
"This album is the work of an already strong voice and road-hardened group that presents Benzie's music with empathy and understanding... No background knowledge is required to enjoy Benzie's clear articulation and thoroughly engaging musicality." The Herald
"A fine piece of work... Luminously toned, atmospheric and often impressionistic music that suggests it has been the result of careful consideration... Highly engaging." The Scotsman
"Benzie's imagistic style recalls John Taylor's a little, perhaps Bobo Stenson... I particularly liked the pensive, brooding quality of "A Wandering Mist" that is then developed extensively and shows layers of intricacy in trio interplay... the Benzie compositions are strong and his mastery of the piano impressive..." Marlbank
"Not your usual piano trio album - far from it... He comes across as in inventive pianist and creative composer devoid of cliches..." Bebop Spoken Here
Suddenly grabbed by the desperate urge to buy a copy or three? Head over to the Buy page for more info!
Alan Benzie Trio in Europe, British Jazz Awards and London Jazz Festival
It's been a great few months since we released "Traveller's Tales" with the trio - a big thank you to everyone who came out to see us during the release tour! I'm really pleased to say that we've had some lovely reviews coming in too. We were on the road again in September, playing in Hungary, Austria and Germany, including a live broadcast for Austrian Radio, and fantastic gigs at Opus Jazz Club (a relatively new club in Budapest) and the venerable Jazzkeller in Frankfurt. Here's a wee video from the end of our gig at Opus, with Marton tearing it up on Andrew's tune "Dream Snatcher":
After coming back to Scotland, I was honoured and delighted to be nominated in the "Rising Star" category of the 2015 British Jazz Awards for the second year in a row. As winter set in, I had 2 great gigs to look forward to in the London Jazz Festival - one with the trio and one with Fat-Suit. Ian Mann from thejazzmann.com had some very kind words to say, as well as a pretty colourful way of highlighting the quite different things I do in each band: "I’d seen Benzie at Kings Place a week before leading his highly accomplished acoustic piano trio but here he was in his other role as ‘wizard of the synth’... this gig was a further demonstration of his prodigious ability and versatility." Thanks Ian! I'll be needing to get a pointy hat and a wand for the next gig...