DOORSTEP INTERVIEW: NOT NOW CHARLIE
INSTRUMENTAL JAZZ WIZARDS NOT NOW CHARLIE LAUNCH THEIR NEW ALBUM THIS WEEK
BY NARC. ON SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 10TH, 2016
Instrumental jazz wizards Not Now Charlie launch their new album at Newcastle’s Globe on Thursday 15th September. We talk to them about inspirations, influences and jazzy good times…
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you, where are you from?
We are a five piece instrumental jazz group made up of Jamie Toms (Saxophone), Pavel Jedrzejewski (Guitar), Richard Campbell (Piano), Liam Gaughan (Bass) and Dave McKeague (Drums). The band is now based in Newcastle but members are from as far and wide as Portsmouth, Belfast and Poland. We all met at university when we moved here to study for a degree in Jazz, Popular and Commercial music.
What inspired you to first start making music?
We all have a different story about what made us first pick up an instrument but the reason for the band being created was a desire to be creative and play original material in the Jazz genre. Although every member of the band gigs a lot, unfortunately it’s not always playing the music we are most passionate about. This band allows us to do that.
Who would you say are your biggest influences?
Hopefully, everything we’ve ever listened to! Compositionally though I’d say the likes of Trumpeter Christian Scott, Saxophonists Joshua Redman and Chris Potter, Drummer Manu Katche along with groups such as E.S.T, The Bad Plus and Roller Trio.
How would you describe your sound?
I guess we like to play what we call ‘Groove Jazz’. We all enjoy so many different types of music that we don’t limit ourselves to one particular style, but we do always have plenty of room for each player to improvise. We put our ideas into the Not Now Charlie blender and see what comes out. If we like it, we play it. But whatever it’s called it needs to have a great feel and a good melody.
Where do you see yourselves fitting into the local music scene?
Although Not Now Charlie is predominantly seen as a Jazz group, because of its instrumental nature and heavily improvised music, I think that there is plenty of stuff for people who like grooves and a catchy melody. We’d really like people who think they don’t like jazz to check it out and maybe bring some new faces to support the local jazz scene.
Tell us a bit about your live performances. What can we expect from a gig by you?
Normally we play 1-2 hours of music, depending on the type of gig. We play all original tunes that cover a great range of feels, styles and emotions. Hopefully there will be at least one tune you can go away whistling.
Can you tell us what gigs you have planned in the region in the near future?
Our next local gig is at The Globe Jazz Co-op on Thursday 15th September. It is the official launch gig for our new album, Nostalgia Revisited, so it’s going to be a great night. We’ll be playing two hours of music including all of the album material.
What do you think has been your biggest achievement so far as a band?
As the band is fairly new basically everything we have done has been a highlight for us so far. Our debut gig was at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival 2014, which was pretty cool, and the audience was amazing. We also had a great crowd when we recorded this live album earlier this year.
Have there been any major challenges so far in your musical career?
The hardest thing at the moment is getting gigs. It’s a problem for all bands at the moment I think as venues and promoters don’t have as much money to spend as they used to. It’s also a struggle to get people to come out to watch live music these days, as there are so many other distractions on offer.
What else have you got planned for the future?
Plenty more gigs hopefully! We are currently booking more gigs outside of the region (and hopefully abroad) for next year. We’ve also got loads of new material to record so another album looks likely.
Now Now Charlie play The Globe, Newcastle on Thursday 15th September.
Recorded live at Newcastle’s Jazz Cafe, Nostalgia Revisited is the debut album from Not Now Charlie. This quintet of young Sage graduates have compiled an album of original compositions which incorporates elements of funk, rock and traditional swinging jazz.
Not Now Charlie know how to write an intoxicating melody line. This is clear from the opener M.C.T which has a laid back groove in the style made popular by Janek Gwizdala. The sax and guitar of Jamie Toms & Pavel Jedrzejewski weave aound each other while occasionally meeting on the melody line. Toms takes a stirring solo over the 6/8 groove with bassist Liam Gaughan filling the spaces. Gaughan then takes a solo which is packed full of thematic development and displays a freedom across the fretless bass. As the bassist begins to play a chordal motif, he pushes the band in to a bouncing reggae feel. Jedrzejewski’s solo ouses rock n roll swagger. Distorted bends, trills and screams bring on an emphatic climax.
Dave McKeague opens Hadath with an energetic drum solo. The track is built on a lurching piano and bass unison line which is embellished with clean, tremolo guitar. This gives the piece a 70’s cop show mood which has a nostalgic charm. Jedrzejewski uses a cleaner Scofield-esque sound for his solo and a Cuban feel is introduced under the sax solo.
Quizzical has a very apt name as the melody certainly sounds inquisitive. It is delivered over an angular backdrop which eases in to the solo section. The drums hold down the groove while Gaughan plays across the bar lines, creating tension before resolving to a solid line. The band move in a Neo-Soul direction for the wah wah guitar solo.
The curiously titled Russian Girl (Who Speaks No English) is a ballad with an unusual meter. Harmonically static, emphasis is put on the melody. Mckeague drives the piece along with subtle brushwork. This is a stand out number for Gaughan who creates a varied set of grooves which sit right in the pocket.
The hard driving rock groove of It’s Not Me, It’s You features some tightly executed ensemble passages. An unexpected drop to a repetitive bass figure forms the basis for an explosive drum solo.
The Cuban drum groove of Mythos underpins a melody which is more in the contemporary jazz vein. The groove is forceful yet spacious and calming, building to some hard driving swing for a more traditional guitar solo.
The guitar and sax resume conversation over the broken groove of Potters Wheel. The piece has a feel of late era Miles Davis with Marcus Miller inspired slap lines. One of the sections of the composition can only be described as Dave Brubeck’s Take Five on steroids.
The album draws to a close with the dramatic harmony of the title track, where tension is built with spacious solo lines over repetitive figures.
Where Do You Go To? is an uplifting composition which climaxes to a stomping fusion groove.
Nostalgia Revisited is an impressive debut which is full of promise. Hopefully a studio album will follow and will capture the energy that the band display in a live setting.
Not Now Charlie are a young five piece band from Newcastle upon Tyne led by saxophonist and composer Jamie Toms. The group also features guitarist Pawel Jedrzejewski, pianist Richard Campbell, bassist Liam Gaughan and drummer Dave McKeague.
Their music embraces elements of jazz, pop soul and r’n'b and they cite artists such as saxophonists Chris Potter and Joshua Redman, trumpeter Christian Scott, and drummer Manu Katche plus the UK’s own Roller Trio as significant influences.
Not Now Charlie made their live début at the 2014 Gateshead Jazz Festival and released their début recording, “The Loft Sessions EP” in 2015. The group’s latest release, “Nostalgia Revisited” is a full length live album recorded at the The Jazz Café in Newcastle on February 12th 2016. Like its predecessor it appears on the Jazz Sound record label founded by Toms to showcase the jazz, funk and soul artists of the North East. Recorded by Mark Stafford it was mixed by the group’s bassist Liam Gaughan.
“Nostalgia Revisited” features nine original pieces, all composed by Toms and arranged by the group. The performance begins with the attention grabbing “M.C.T” which features Toms’ soulful tenor sax in a contemporary setting incorporating elements of funk, soul, Latin and rock. Campbell deploys both acoustic and electric keyboard sounds but its Gaughan’s melodic Pastorius/Swallow styled electric bass and Jedrzejewski’s soaring, stratospheric guitar that steers the music more firmly into rock territory. Following the guitarist’s solo the return of Toms’ sax signals a return to the initial soul jazz feel of the piece. A partisan local crowd gives them a great reception.
“Hadath” is introduced by a powerful solo feature from McKeague at the drums which eventually sees him combining with Gaughan, Campbell and Jedrzejewski to create a full on funk groove, this providing the stimulus for Toms’ gritty r’n'b tinged tenor sax. The inventive Jedrzejewski again makes good use of his range of effects as his guitar takes flight once more. Toms’ solo then finds the music taking more of a Latin-esque turn courtesy of Campbell’s keyboard work and McKeague’s colourful drumming.
“Quizzical” begins with Toms’ throaty tenor sketching the melody above an undulating funk groove prior to stretching out with a forceful, Coltrane-esque solo. Jedrzejewski weighs in with more fretboard pyrotechnics on another excellent group performance that clearly delighted the home crowd.
The beginning of “Russian Girl (Who Speaks No English)” finds the quintet temporarily chilling out as Campbell and Jedrzejewski provide a delicate piano /guitar introduction. McKeague’s brushed drum grooves steer the music into more up-tempo territory and Campbell impresses with a flowingly expansive acoustic piano solo, his only extended feature of the set. Toms’ tenor solo locates the music back in more familiar soul jazz territory as the momentum builds once more before gradually fading again on the gently melodic coda.
“It’s Not Me, It’s You” sees the group adopting an unashamed rock groove that fairly powers the music along as sax, guitar and keyboards coalesce around the surging melody. This first phase of the tune ends rather abruptly to a smattering of confused applause but Gaughan and McKeague then combine to restart proceedings, their dialogue morphing into an extended feature for the impressive and powerful drummer. Finally the front-liners reconvene to take the music storming out.
As this is a live recording Toms’ introduction of his band mates presages “Mythos” with its infectious grooves and lively solos from Toms on tenor and Jedrzejewski on guitar, the latter initially favouring a cleaner, more orthodox jazz guitar sound before shading off into more rock influenced terrain once more.
The introduction to “Potter’s Wheel” sounds as if it may have been largely improvised as the group blend free jazz tropes with more overt funk elements. Eventually an odd meter, but still inescapably funky, groove emerges with the group even flirting with elements of prog and math rock. There’s some commendably tight ensemble playing framing a gutsy tenor solo from Toms as Jedrzejewski plays something of a wild card role with some interesting and unusual guitar noises.
The title track has something of an anthemic quality and features the soulful cry of Toms’ tenor sax above arpeggiated rhythms as the music builds in power and intensity before leading to a more impressionistic episode featuring Jedrzejewski’s guitar. However the Pole’s axe is soon soaring again as he takes flight above the muscular rhythms laid down by Gaughan and McKeague before the tune resolves itself in a similar manner to which it began.
The album concludes with the optimistic sounds of “Where Do You Go To?” which opens with sax and guitar operating in tandem above powerful rock rhythms. Jedrzejewski’s guitar solo offers a more reflective episode as he adopts a relatively unadorned guitar sound, subtly supported by Campbell’s acoustic piano and McKeague’s light, splashy cymbal work. Toms’ breezy tenor solo increases the energy levels once more before the piece ends with some powerful unison riffing.
Overall I was very impressed by this offering from the curiously named Not Now Charlie. All the musicians perform well and I was particularly impressed by Jedrzejewski’s colourful, inventive and imaginative guitar work which manages to avoid the usual fusion guitar clichés. A word too for the precise and powerful drumming of the consistently impressive McKeague.
However it’s not just about the admittedly impressive musicianship. Despite operating in a loosely ‘fusion -esque’ area Toms’ writing is consistently interesting and exciting, offering plenty of variety and contrast, often in the course of a single piece. Thus he and the band avoid the usual funk and soul strait-jackets, yes their music is full of bright melodies and enjoyable grooves but they’re not shackled by them. In the musical world of Not Now Charlie there’s always something of interest going on.
“Nostalgia Revisited” may be a little too rock/funk/soul oriented for some dyed in the wool jazzers but this is music with the potential to appeal to a wide range of adventurous listeners, including curious rock fans. I’d certainly recommend the album to most of the people who are likely to be reading this - and if Not Now Charlie ever perform live outside their North East heartland I’d certainly be well inclined to go and see them.
A few diehards plus family and friends made up the core of the audience for this Jazz Coop gig - perhaps the outbreak of Lazyitus that Patti referred to in a previous post is turning into an epidemic of pandemic proportions. Those who weren't present last night should contact their GP immediately. Oh no! They can't - it's Good Friday!
Those who were present heard some excellent original material. Contemporary without being extreme.
The strangely named quintet hit the deck running on a strangely named composition - MCT. Composer Toms blew a marathon tenor solo of Gonsalves-like longevity. A sticky G# key notwithstanding, this was the business. Bass guitar and guitar kept the ball in play driven forward by McKeague's forceful drumming and Campbell's frenetic 'comping' this set a high benchmark; not just for themselves but for any band.
Several numbers were from the band's recent album and others were even newer. Some had been played at previous gigs and some hadn't.
Physical featured Toms' Coltranic tenor as well as wild guitar thrashing from Pawel J. Russian Girl Who Speaks English began with a gentle, probing intro from guitar and piano although it didn't stay that way for long!
Floating High, by pianist Campbell was something to behold. Ostensibly in 3 or was it 6 or 27? I wasn't counting just enjoying the triplicity of the meter.
Telling Tales, inexplicitly, had the feel of a cèilidh band who'd od'd on poteen. Possibly the best number of the evening. It's Not me it's You featured Dave McKeague. The north east has a plethora of ace skin men at present and Dave is right up there with them.
And so the evening rolled on. Superb playing by all five. This is a band to catch again and again, unlike the number 12 bus*
Jazz Café next stop said Thomas the Tank Engine. Large numbers alighted at Pink Lane, Charlie was ready and waiting, although there was no sign of Uncle Oswald. Jazz Sound Records set up shop in the upstairs room of the Jazz Café to record a gig. Tickets issued, all seats taken, off we go…
Five piece Not Now Charlie built up a head of steam. Riff, hook, reggae, rock steady, go. The new ‘product’ available at the door, it made sense to play the stuff! Band tight, tenor man Jamie Toms leading from the front.
Tunes from the new CD – Hadath, Russian Girl, Where Do You Go To? – impressed, so too older numbers – Quizzical (the band’s first hit, well, first ever tune!) and MCT. Pawel Jedrzejewski cranked it up, Richard Campbell did the business and the rhythm boys – Liam Gaughan (four and six string basses) and Dave McKeague – knew what they were doing. Pop time, swing time, good time.