Jason Bruer is much, much more than a jazz saxophonist. He’s a bandleader, star soloist, composer, arranger, esteemed teacher – He’s the professional’s professional.
He brings the chops, knowledge, performance excitement and technique garnered over decades of hard-grinding international experience in every musical context.
He augments it with pure musical passion, perpetual enthusiasm and the exploratory outlook of someone who is totally in love with music, constantly refreshing the beauties of the past with the excitement of the contemporary.
Jason brings it ‘all’ to every gig, every solo and every musical interaction with nothing held back and no holds barred. He brings total commitment and ultimate professionalism to every performance in every genre of music he chooses to play.
As a sixteen year old, Jason Bruer had an opportunity that most other lads his age only dreamed of – he was able to live in London with his family whilst his father was studying there. Music had always been part of his life – he was a massive fan, but here in London he binged on it. Being able to see many of his favourite bands was incredible after living in Adelaide, where concerts by international artists were infrequent. It is here his love for the sax was born – through a friendship developed in London, he was introduced to jazz, most notably John Coltrane and Weather Report. A couple of years later, after returning to Australia, he realised this is what ignited his desire to take up the sax, and at the ripe old age of 18 that’s exactly what he did.
Prior to this, his only exposure with the sax was on some of the Pink Floyd albums, as well as King Crimson and The Rolling Stones – he was a huge fan of these bands. He had never really been exposed to it as a lead instrument until he heard John Coltrane and Weather Report, that exposure basically blew his mind, and brought to life a love affair that has continued for over forty years.
You will find that Jason’s tastes are broadchurch when it comes to music. Obviously being a saxophonist, jazz would be his favourite style of music. But from his youth, he has been inspired by the greats, such as Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis, Little Feat, Eric Clapton and more.
Back in Adelaide, after only playing the sax for 6 months, he was asked to join ‘Prog Jazz Rock’ band Cottage who developed a bit of a cult following due to their unique and adventurous music. In 1982, Jason commenced a Bachelor of Music at Adelaide University. His first quintet, ‘Small Hours’, supported international heavy weights Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and also Johnny Griffin. Whilst at university, he was asked to join eight-piece band ‘Fat Time’, becoming a very popular band in a very short time indeed. It wasn’t long before they outgrew the Adelaide scene. Jason saw it was time to take a risk and follow his gut. He moved with the band to Sydney in 1984. ‘Fat Time’ went on to become one of Australia’s most popular live acts.
There were a slew of TV appearances, which included – The Ray Martin show, The Mike Walsh show and Hey Hey It’s Saturday; and they also became winners of the national talent show ‘Star Search’ in 1985. Fat Time went on to support the likes of Joe Cocker, Santana, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Joan Armatrading. During this time, Jason also freelanced with some of Australia’s biggest artists including The Models, The Dynamic Hepnotics, Eurogliders, Steve Kilby and Swanee, performing live and featuring on a number of their record albums.
Come 1988, and Jason knew it was time to take another risk, this time moving to London. Slowly, but surely, Bruer established himself in the highly competitive London music scene. In a near twenty year time period, he played as a session musician, working with some of the biggest names in the music business – Eric Clapton, Sting, Mick Hucknell, Mica Paris, BB King, Stevie Winwood, Madness, Paul Weller, All Saints, Bonnie Tyler, Van Morrison, Jools Holland and Lulu to name a few.
He formed acclaimed fusion outfit ‘Pond Life’ and was one of the composers. They went on to record ‘Spanking the Plankton’ in 1995 and toured around Finland and the UK. He co-led Smith & Bruer Band with Roy Ayers’ sideman, Tony Smith. The pair enjoyed success working London’s club scene with their brand of retro jazz funk. They recorded ‘Searching for a Cool Basement’ in 2001.
Jason went on to tour extensively around Britain, Europe and Scandinavia with several bands, making numerous TV appearances on ‘Top of the Pops’, ‘Later with Jools Holland’, Chris Evan’s show ‘Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush’, ‘TFI Friday’ and Richard Littlejohn’s chat show. His talents also spilled over into TV theme tunes and film scores; one notable soundtrack was the film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’.
He also appeared in ‘The Brand New Alexi Sayle Show’, playing a psycho in a sketch alongside ex Neighbours and The Flying Doctors star Peter O’Brien. Comedy was a new adventure, and he found himself taking up the opportunity of working with some of the great English comedians who were involved in music such as Neil Innes & The Ruttles, Barry Cryer, Steve Coogan, Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard and was a member of soul funk band ‘Ronnie & The Rex who were fronted by ex ‘Fabulous Poodles’ front man / comedian Ronnie Golden.
In 2006, Jason took another risk, moving his family back to Sydney. This was a step into a completely different scene than the Sydney that he left in 1988. But again, he followed his gut, and moved nonetheless. Within a few weeks of returning to Sydney, he was touring Australia as part of the Good Vibrations Festival with English band ‘The Cuban Brothers’, supporting James Brown. In the same year he was part of the house band for Simon Burke’s chat show ‘Studio A’. He also started lecturing and teaching at AIM (Australian Institute of Music), mentoring and guiding Sydney’s newest generation of musicians. In 2008 he released his debut (Solo) CD, ‘As Above So Below’ on Vorticity Music to critical acclaim.
In 2010, Jason formed sextet Hammerhead, then went on to record their debut album ‘Mozaic’ in 2014. You will have seen them appearing at numerous festivals including Wangaratta Jazz & Blues Festival, Thredbo Jazz Festival, Manly Jazz
Festival, Capitol Jazz Festival, Sydney Con International Jazz Festival, and Marrickville Festival. They have also performed sell out shows in Canberra at Gods Cafe, Street Theatre, and at the ANU as well as at The Wollongong Conservatoire of Music. You will find them playing monthly at one of Sydney’s most popular venues – Lazybones in Marrickville.
In 2019, followers and fans will have seen a change in direction for Hammerhead – hence the name of their new released album – ‘Turning Point’. Not only did their music take a turn, so did the line-up. Jason selected what he sees as the right musical match to give full bloom to his original compositions. Here is where you truly enter the world of Jason Bruer. Here he goes deep, injecting a broader compositional palette and a diversity of styles and disparate influences.
Currently, in addition to managing his own projects (Hammerhead, Soul Roots Revival Band, JB3), Jason teaches privately, and freelances regularly. He features in a number of other bands including ‘Dancing in the Shadows of Motown’, ‘The Aretha Franklin Songbook’, ‘Meme Wars’ and ‘The Locals’.
Over the course of four decades, Jason has experienced many memorable moments and experiences playing music. At the top of the pile would have to be the pleasure of playing at Stings’ 10th Wedding Anniversary, at his house jamming with him, Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood, Michael Waldon, and The Jools Holland Band (he was a member of his band throughout a lot of the 90s) whilst the likes of Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman danced the night away right in from of him. He also played at the G8 conference in 1998 to all the world leaders including Bill Clinton with whom he met afterwards and chatted to. Playing before ‘The Who’ in Hyde Park (London) to more than 120,000 people was also a highlight, but Bruer says playing his own music, with a his own band in front of a great audience however big or small is still what gives him the most pleasure.
Here we are in 2020, with the future very much up in the air due to Covid19. But the creativity never halts. Jason has already started writing to hopefully record another album with Hammerhead in 2021. He also has ambitions to take Hammerhead onto the world stage.