SINGER CHARLIE WOOD HONOURED BY AWARD OF BRASS NOTE ON JAZZ WORLD'S VERSION OF HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME
by Sam Creighton for the Daily Mail
PUBLISHED: 12:57, 31 December 2014 | UPDATED: 14:52, 31 December 2014
From Elvis Presley to Justin Timberlake, some of music’s biggest ever names adorn the pavements of Beale Street. The engraved brass notes running along the street in Memphis, Tennessee, are often called the musical equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
And now a new name has been added - jazz pianist and singer Charlie Wood, who has just finished recording his sixth album in the UK. Having been brought up in Memphis and having spent years playing in the city’s clubs and bars, achieving the accolade has been one of his greatest dreams.
He said: ‘I played thousands of nights on Beale Street in Memphis during my residency there. Every night I'd walk past those brass notes inscribed with the names of my musical heroes: bluesmen like BB King, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Albert King; jazz greats like Phineas and Calvin Newborn, Jimmie Lunceford, Onzie Horne, Fred Ford and Honeymoon Garner; and R&B stars like Otis Redding and Al Green.
‘It was a humbling but very therapeutic way to prepare for the gig, thinking about all those great Memphis musicians and what I might be able to contribute. Being awarded this honour, having a brass note with my name on it set amongst so many of the musicians I love and admire - it's one of the highest accolades I could ever hope for. It's a lot to live up to, but I'll do my best to deserve it.’
Wood was studying for a degree in English Literature, playing music as a hobby, when in 1989 he received a call from blues guitarist Albert King asking him to join his band. In the 25 years since he has never looked back and played at a dedication ceremony for the brass note earlier this year.
Voted one of the most famous and popular boulevards in the U.S., Beale Street had its heyday in the 1920s with a glittering line of clubs, theatres and restaurants with a seedy underbelly. Gambling, drinking, prostitution and murder were rife - not to mention the pickpockets who preyed on those enjoying the music.
The tradition of brass notes, a nod to Hollywood's Walk of Fame, sprang up in the 1980s after the area was redeveloped and now honours more than 100 jazz greats.
Charlie Wood's latest album New Souvenirs was released in November.
FOUR STARS for Charlie Wood's "NEW SOUVENIRS" in March issue of UK VIBE Magazine
FOUR STARS for New Souvenirs from R2 Magazine:
Charlie Wood was an admired figure on the music scene of his hometown, Memphis, and toured in Albert King's band before, some years back, moving to London where his talents as a musician, singer, songwriter and arranger are becoming ever more appreciated.
On New Souvenirs, his sixth album, the writing is exceptional, the often-ruminative songs featuring well-honed, literate lyrics, as on 'Ghost Town', which was written with the technical precision and linguistic flair of a classic from the Great American Songbook; the poetic 'The Tide'; and 'Detaché', which includes a quote from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, no less. Only very occasionally does Wood's songwriting quality-control falter, as on 'Promised Land', where the metaphor of being led to said promised land by a lover is surely too well-worn to be evocative.
Wood sings with warmth and sensitivity and his hipsterish delivery of the surely autobiographical 'Music Is My Monkey', for example, is very effective and he's an outstanding arranger - there's lovely, delicate string and brass writing on several tracks - and player, on piano, B-3 and other keyboards. Brit jazzers like guitarist Chris Allard accompany and solo masterfully.
Trevor Hodgett, November 2014
Sean McGhee interviews Charlie Wood for R2 Magazine:
Memphis-born but UK-based, Charlie Wood is a pianist, singer and songwriter equally at home in blues, jazz, soul, or r'n'b. His latest album, New Souvenirs, has just been released on the Perdido Records label. My initial impression on hearing it was that Wood reminded me of a less theatrical blend of Van Morrison and Georgie Fame. "Both those guys are musical heroes of mine, so I'd be honoured to be mentioned in the same breath. Stylistically I'd say what I do is very similar, so maybe I'm following in their footsteps."
New Souvenirs blends elements of jazz, blues, r'n'b, soul and pop-rock songwriting effectively - all topped up with a classy delivery. A seemingly difficult album to file in the record shop racks. "Are there still any record racks left to be filed within? I heard Irving Berlin used to go into New York music shops and move his sheet music to the front of the stacks. File me under Irving."
With so many musical bases ticked on the album, who is Wood aiming at or hoping will listen and pick up on New Souvenirs? "I reckon people who dug my Southbound record from the mid-90s might be particularly likely to find things they also like on New Souvenirs, but I'm grateful to have listeners and fans of all descriptions."
Charlie toured as part of Albert King's band back in the late 80s when still a young man. What does he think he learned from King?
"Musically I learned a great deal about tension and release, pacing a solo or a song or a set so the energy builds. i learned a lot about the mechanics of electric blues, what the bass should be doing, how that works with the drums, where the other instruments and parts fit in, et cetera. It's like a jigsaw puzzle - the pieces need to fit right, or it won't stay together. I also learned how to survive on the road under tough conditions, which is a valuable lesson."
Growing up in Memphis he was very aware of the city's musical status and that has had a lot to do with his passion for playing, as described in "Music Is My Monkey" on the new album.
"So many great musicians have come out of Memphis, and so many great recordings made there, it's impossible not to be aware of that legacy and influenced by all that beautiful music, past and present. Memphis is and has historically been a place where there are lots of bands playing in lots of different venues every night, typically for three or four hours per engagement, so the sheer frequency and variety of gigs keeps you playing constantly. I think if you didn't love to play, you wouldn't last long in that environment."
now based in the UK and married to renowned jazz vocalist Jacqui Dankworth, Charlie Wood is a busy and versatile musician. "I'm doing a lot of songwriting these days and liking what I come up with, so I reckon there'll be another originals album coming along pretty soon. I'd love to do a duet record with Jacqui and we've been talking over ideas, so that's high on the list for sure.
"I'm excited about the composing and arranging work I've been doing for Jacqui with some incredible classical musicians like The Brodsky Quartet, Roxanna Panufnik, the Liverpool Philharmonic and others, so I'm really interested in pursuing that further. I'm just grateful to have so much interesting and rewarding musical work to sink my teeth into."
Sean McGhee, November 2014
Charlie Wood - NEW SOUVENIRS
While Charlie Wood's previous release on the Memphis-based independent label Archer Records, his fine 2012 album Lush Life, served up an 11-track collection of covers, New Souvenirs sees the singer, songwriter and keyboardist return to the fertile territory of self-penned material. Co-produced with his wife, Jacqui Dankworth, it's a collection of 12 memorable songs of a quite startling diversity, united by their pointed emotional power. The album's lead-off song, "No Repose", is a slow-burner that builds to an impassioned, string-laden climax. "Music Is My Monkey" is a funky personal credo driven irresistibly onwards by Wood on clav and organ. The flowing, iridescent textures of "Until the Fall" find Wood at his most poetic, while the state-of-the-human-race "Mercy" is all the more compelling for its understatement. "Tube" is a witty, rimshot and bass-driven critique of Wood's adoptive hometown's underground system ("It's tough to be a rat down there".) By contrast, "The Tide" is all gorgeous close harmony backing harmonies. The album closes as it opens, with one of Wood's beautifully crafted, piano-led ballads, "Winter Song". This is an album that taps straight into the core of Wood's formidable artistry. -Peter Quinn, JazzWise, Oct. 2014
Charlie Wood has won an ever bigger following over the past few years. His compositions are highly original and his influences wide – from American country through blues to jazz. But, as evidenced by this latest album, Charlie's virtuosity as both vocalist and hugely accomplished keyboardist is never less than stunning. He is a fine producer too. And the range of Charlie's original material on ‘New Souvenirs’ is impressively broad. From the cool, relaxing, evocative ‘Winter Song’ through the very different ‘Music is My Monkey’ and the contrasting ‘Detache’,this album is a delight from beginning to end. There are masterful sax and piano solos (with powerful bass) in the middle section of ‘Don't Think’ and the melodic and subtle vocal harmonies in ‘Mercy’ are perfect. Indeed, each track is a joy.
I never underestimate the sheer effort and talent required to produce an album of this quality – and credit is due to all involved including co-producer and backing vocalist (and Charlie's wife!) Jacqui Dankworth plus Ben Castle on sax, Chris Allard on guitar, bassist Dudley Phillips and Nic France on percussion. They and others have ensured Charlie Wood's ‘New Souvenirs’ is a truly great album which should guarantee Charlie Wood even wider recognition.
IF you’re born in Memphis, Tennessee, you don’t have to play the blues; but it helps.
It’s not clear whether it’s something in the water or something in the air but the roll call of names who have put Memphis on the world musical map is starry to say the least. And whereas in Hollywood that’s exactly how celebrities are honoured on the sidewalk – with a star, in Memphis, legendary musicians such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Justin Timberlake are commemorated with a Brass Note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame.
Earlier this week, singer/songwriter/keyboard player, Charlie Wood was in his home town of Memphis to accept his Brass Note on the Walk of Fame. The ceremony coincided with the European release of New Souvenirs, the first album he has recorded in the UK with British musicians.
His wife, Jacqui Dankworth, daughter of jazz superstars Sir Johnny Dankworth and Dame Cleo Laine, couldn’t be there to see Charlie receive the accolade; she was busy in a recording studio in London. But having co-produced New Souvenirs, she’s Charlie’s biggest fan. Well, next to Paloma Faith, that is, who says of Charlie: “I fell in love with this man’s voice the first time I heard it. He is the essence of soul and blues.”
Now, back home in Bedford, Charlie and Jacqui are busy organising a programme of gigs at The Ent Shed in Castle Road. While there’s going to be a press launch of New Souvenirs early next month in Chelsea, Bedford audiences will get the chance to hear it first on Friday.
Charlie not only wrote all the songs on the album, he also did all the arrangements. Beautifully melodic ballads follow complex but intriguing contemporary jazz numbers to create a style that is a loose cross-over between jazz, soul and blues.
If Paloma Faith has good things to say about Charlie, then Jacqui knows why. “We first met at a gig in Pizza Express in Soho about 12 years ago,” she says. “I was teaching in London and a group of 10 of us went along to Charlie’s gig. I’d heard his voice first and it’s rare to hear a voice that you instantly connect to. It blew me away.”