“Ben … has that drivingly linear modern sound, evocative slightly of Mike Brecker, Dave Liebman and other such players. He has a very strong tone and a confidence and inventive ability in the improvisations that make you want to check him out in a live setting.”Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Music Review
Saxophonist Ben Britton is an active performer, composer, and educator 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. In 2008, Ben performed on a live album led by Bobby Sanabria, Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!!, which was nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album at the 2011 Latin Grammys. Working to find his own voice, Ben co-led a recording with his brother John in 2010. The album, Uncertain Living, featured guest artist Chris Potter, and was celebrated by many jazz reviewers and listeners. Ben’s career on the national stage continued to develop in 2012 as he participated in two 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. Expanding in the academic world, Ben completed a Doctorate in Jazz Studies at the Eastman School of Music in 2016, and a year later, he accepted a teaching position at College of Southern Idaho, where he currently teaches jazz and woodwinds. Other highlights of his career include performing or recording with jazz greats like Harold Danko and the Dave Rivello Ensemble. He also has led multiple recording projects, the most recent of which revolves around a sci-fi theme and is titled Tane and Anahera. The record features Ben’s original compositions for various ensembles and is expected to be released in late 2019.
Ben’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 became excited to learn it. In high school, surrounded by working musicians like his band director Phil Butts and sax teachers Dale Barton and Matt Belzer, Ben decided to pursue a career as a professional musician. After high school he immediately enrolled at University of North Texas. During this time, Britton began working on a collection of transcriptions of solos by world renowned saxophonist Chris Potter. Throughout the process he had the opportunity to take a couple of lessons with Potter and correspond about his music, all of which played a big role in shaping Ben’s development.
Around this time Ben took a two-year break from school, and served a voluntary mission in Brazil. When he returned to the States, he resumed his studies at Eastman School of music, along with his brother, John. At Eastman, Ben studied with saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, and he also took a couple lessons with saxophonist Rich Perry during his undergrad. Both of these giants were strong influences on Ben’s playing. After graduation from Eastman, Ben 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. He 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 Sullivan Fortner, Jeremy Siskind, Matt Robbins, Austin Walker, and Taylor Waugh. It was also during this time that Britton collaborated with his brother, John, on their album, Uncertain Living, which featured guest artist Chris Potter.
After completing his Master’s degree, Ben moved his ever-growing family to the greater Philadelphia area, where he formed a new band of Philadelphia-based musicians and pursued his career as a music educator. He held adjunct teaching positions at various colleges including University of Pennsylvania and Montgomery County Community College. While in Philly, Ben had the opportunity to play with many of the jazz and soul artists in the area. He also recorded an EP, Children at Play, with his own group, which features a unique brand of jazz with influences ranging from African music to modern rock.
After three years, Ben returned to school to pursue a doctorate in Jazz Studies at Eastman School of Music. There he worked closely with many of the faculty and fellow students. His professional performance career continued as he had opportunities to play and recording with both seasoned and younger musicians. These included performing and recording with the R.O.C. Jazz Collective and George Darrah led projects. Ben also played the tenor chair with the Dave Rivello Ensemble, a fantastic large ensemble led by a protégé of Bob Brookmeyer and a significant creative voice in jazz composition.
Following his DMA studies, Ben accepted a position teaching jazz and woodwinds at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. He currently resides there with his lovely wife and their eight children, two dogs, and a cat. Ben leads the CSI Jazz Ensemble, small jazz groups, the pep band, and the CSI Youth Jazz Ensembles. He also teaches saxophone, clarinet, flute and bassoon. Performance-wise, Ben performs with the many of the great jazz musicians in the area including Justin Nielsen, Michael Frew, Rick Speicher, etc., and he also fills in on bassoon in the Magic Valley Symphony Orchestra.