Best Buddies: New Album from Saxophonist Troy Roberts and Guitarist Tim Jago

Vandoren Artist Troy Roberts and Guitarist Tim Jago release their latest album, "Best Buddies." Learn more about the CD and listen to the album below. 


Story Behind Album

Friends are some of the most important bonds in our human journey. Both born and raised in Australia, Troy Roberts, and Tim Jago are certainly proof of this notion. The two have a kinship that also lends itself to their professional musician career pursuits, as both initially re-located to the US to undertake graduate studies at The University of Miami Frost School of Music. 

Roberts is a flourishing leader with twelve chart-topping albums to his name, two GRAMMY-Nominations, and was a semi-finalist in the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. A long-time New York resident, he is also an in-demand sideman, performing around Europe and the US extensively with artists such as Joey DeFrancesco, Aretha Franklin, James Morrison, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Van Morrison, Christian McBride, Sammy Figueroa, Billy Hart, Orrin Evans, and Kurt Elling to name a few. Roberts has imparted his knowledge as a professor on faculty at the FROST School of Music and The New School, whilst maintaining a busy performance and recording schedule around the globe. 

Jago also has performed and recorded with a host of world-class musicians, including Terence Blanchard, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Chick Corea, Gloria Estefan, Wycliffe Gordon, Dave Liebman, Bobby McFerrin, Steve Miller, and Arturo Sandoval, to name a few. A semi-finalist in the inaugural Wes Montgomery International Jazz Guitar Competition, he has three leader releases with his trio to his name The Grid (2010), Wear More Headbands (2013), and The Grid III (featuring four) (2015), and is also a member of Troy Roberts’ Nu-Jive group – appearing on Nu-Jive 5 (2013), and Nu-Jive Perspective (2018). Having served on faculty as a professor at The FROST School of Music and The West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Jago also balances a busy sideman performance schedule. 

Two renowned fellow Australians join Roberts and Jago. Ben Vanderwal is one of the most in-demand jazz drummers in Australia. A recipient of the WAM “Best Jazz Artist” award (2015), Ben has worked with many jazz icons such as John Scofield, Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano, Madeleine Peyroux, Gilad Hekselman, Chris Potter, Kate Ceberano, Walter Smith III, Will Vinson, Mark Murphy, Joel Frahm, Ernie Watts and more. 

Rounding out this adroit ensemble is bassist Karl Florisson, who has shared the stage with international artists such as Aaron Goldberg, Ben Monder, George Garzone, Tim Minchin, and James Morrison. He has released three albums with long-time collaborators Harry Mitchell and Ben Vanderwal as Trio Trio. Florisson currently serves on faculty at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts. 

Best Buddies is precisely what the name portrays – a group of like-minded friends getting together to create spontaneous sounds in the straight-ahead jazz/post-bop tradition. Each of these busy musicians happened to be in the same place simultaneously in their homeland during a COVID lockdown. This rare moment very naturally progressed toward pressing record on July 22 & 23, 2020, capturing an excellent collaboration showcasing intensity, humor, fire, and finesse amongst four best buddies. 

This album’s theme is contrafacts (a new melody composed over the existing harmonic structure of various well-known jazz standards), with an underlying aesthetic very much in the post-bop tradition.


Listen to the Album

Songs on the Album

“Chythm Ranges” is an up-tempo energetic piece that immediately launches into the trading of phrases between Tim and Troy instead of the stock-standard approach of consecutive solos. Ben’s drum solo is also over the song’s form, where he effortlessly weaves in and between the sporadic intricate figures derived from the melody. This piece is based on George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” 

The medium-swinging title track, “Best Buddies,” is based on Benny Golson’s “Stablemates” and features solos from all four members. Also featuring the fire and intensity of all four is “Evil Eye” – an energetic, rhythmically straight-eighth venture, reminiscent of Cuban rhythms, and based on Matt Dennis› popular song from 1946, “Angel Eyes.” 

“Zeena” is a rhythmically deceptive groove in 5/4, based on a small portion of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night In Tunisia.” This hauntingly melancholic brief interlude is the brainchild of all four members – the epitome of this group’s collaborative mission. 

“A New Porpoise,” based on Bronisław Kaper’s “On Green Dolphin Street.” The rhythmic pulse is inspired by Vernel Fournier’s legendary drum groove on Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana,” yet in a slow 5/4 time signature. Jago takes the first solo with a playful bounce, setting the tone for what is to come. 

“Pho Twenny” is a ballad treatment over Gene de Paul’s jazz standard, “I’ll Remember April.” There is a clear emphasis on space, whereby each member takes their time to play with a sense of lyricism and sensitivity. The title is a play on words with ‘April 2020’ – which we’ll all certainly remember from the perspective of post-COVID. 

“King of Hearts” finds Karl setting the scene with an undeniably bold statement that permeates throughout this ‘Coltrane-esque’ waltz. The melody’s harmonic structure is centered on Cole Porter’s classic “My Heart Belongs To Daddy,” however Troy and Tim explore possibilities over a wide-open harmonic structure. All the while, Ben drives this journey with his ‘Elvin Jones-esque’ rolling triplet undertow. 

“Halfway House in C Major” is based on Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love.” The title derives from three subjects; 1) the fact that the melody is composed on only half of the form, 2) eludes to Tadd Dameron’s contrafact “Hot House,” and 3) deviating from the standard jazz solo approach, this piece is performed in the classical-baroque style, featuring spontaneous, interactive contrapuntal lines. 

Based on Harold Arlen’s classic “My Shining Hour,” Jago’s “Overlook” toggles between C and Eb major – the two common key centers for which the standard is commonly performed. Tim and Troy open this piece with a fiery Lennie Tristano-esque melody performed in unison and unaccompanied. With the rhythm section kicking in at the bridge, the track further escalates with Troy’s forceful solo break, establishing his strong presence and the new key center. 

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