By Milan Perera, Second Year English Literature and Community Engagement
Epigram catches up with Bristol student Benjy Sandler and reviews his latest album 'Full Moon Session'.
In an unheroic age of manufactured artists and rampant cronyism, his music comes lancing in like a bolt of lightning. In an era where Tik Tok driven instant fame is the mainstay, here is an artist driven with a passion and an indomitable resolve. His beat is broad much like his scope of interests. His approach to making music is holistic, very much akin to the titans of yester years who he adores. Benjy Sandler who is studying at University of Bristol has released his second studio album ‘Full Moon Session’ under SkyDeck Music label much to the acclaim of jazz fraternity. To shed some light on his latest album, Epigram went to meet up with the young saxophonist.
On a belter of afternoon where the mercury was soaring, we sat on the terrace of Ballon Bar over a pint of Continental lager. He was warm and engaging without even a whiff of ego. Benjy Sandler is in his final year studying French and Spanish, aiming for his Masters Degree at the renowned Guildhall School of Music. Though he has been playing the saxophone since the age of 11, it wasn’t until he spent a year in France for ‘Year Abroad’ that he had his ‘Damascene’ moment.
Sandler was first introduced to the opulent sounds of jazz while he was still a pupil at the prestigious Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School where a certain Mr Matthew Herd instilled a lifelong love for jazz. He was immediately attracted to branches of jazz such as Bebop and Free jazz. When asked about his inspirations, Sandler cited John Coltrane, Soweto Kinch, Lynn Cassiers, Evan Parker and Fred Anderson.
His parents were full of encouragement for the budding musician. In fact, he used to play duets with his father on the piano. While Sandler was in Montpellier as a requirement for his degree course, he would busk near the promenade from time to time. But one day another young jazz musician who was passing by was impressed with the dazzling virtuosity of Sandler and invited him to jam at their place and the rest, as they say, is history. They immediately clicked and the collective sound was bold and brilliant.
Sandler’s debut album featured individual projects recorded from his bedroom. It was a sign of the things to follow. The second album, ‘Full Moon Session’ was recorded in Montpellier, France in June 2021. It features Sandler with his frequent collaborators Damien Thonnard, Frédéric Léger, Karl Moussavou, Sarah El Jenadi and Toussaint Guerre.
Of the six individual tracks that make up the album, five are his original compositions. The remaining track ‘Bernice’ was based on a melody by the late Fred Anderson which has an insistent and catchy beat that is sweetened with the lush tone of Sandler.
The opening track of the album ‘Dance of the Underworld’ has an element of jazz fusion that prompts you to take to the dance floor. The second track, ‘Song Thrush’ features Sarah El Jenadi on the vocals. El Jenadi’s voice has a lyrical warmth that is brimming with unbridled ardour. The aptly named ‘Concupiscence’ is latent with sensual energy. The undulating melody line shines like the lovely forms through the folds of a shimmering dress.
The bookending track of the album, ‘Figuerolles’ was inspired by his neighbourhood in Montpellier which is bursting with the hustle and the bustle.
Sandler’s sound is characterised by a warm, lush tone with an elegant vibrato. Throughout the album, he demonstrates an effortless fluidity with a sophisticated approach to improvisation.
He is actively involved in the local jazz scene jamming with celebrated local artists. Watch this space, as he is slowly but surely organising the launch gig for his latest album. As we bid farewell, we were down two pints. The time flew as I tried to catch a glimpse of the emerging talent in the jazz scene who made his arrival known in style.
Have you listened to ‘Full Moon Session’?