Bedfordshire On Sunday

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.”

October 18, 2014 (special feature)