New Souvenirs ★★★★
Now British resident, but originally a southern American singer-songwriter, pianist and multi-keyboardist Charlie Wood is a rare species in that his take on the blues-jazz tradition is very much in the lineage of Mose Allison and Ben Sidran, with a gentle nod to Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, and there are precious few performers who can carry that off with such aplomb and still sound original.
Wood was born in Memphis in 1967 and studied classical piano before taking up the jazz piano at high school. His blues formation is impeccable and he performed on keyboards for Albert King’s band in 1989/1990 prior to the blues legend passing away while simultaneously studying for a BA in English Literature, another point of common ground that he shares with the great Mose Allison. Quirky lyrics and soulful delivery are the hallmarks of Charlie Wood’s craft and the relaxed delivery on the opener, ‘No Repsonse’ typifies what is on offer as a whole. Wood’s awareness of music beyond the frontiers of the blues is illustrated on the uptempo ‘Music is my monkey’ with some electronic keyboard wizardry that is straight out of the Stevie Wonder 1970s fold. The understated funky blues, ‘Angel of despair’, impresses and the subtle use of minor chord keyboards on Hammond B3 recalls Larry Young in his prime while for a conventional jazz ballad, the rendition of ‘The Tide’ is a clear indication that Wood is fully capable of singing in a jazz idiom as and when required. Co-produced by jazz singer and Wood’s wife, Jacqui Dankworth, this album is a subtle dislocation from the norm and deserves wider attention, not least among non-specialist music fans who simply wish to hear some lyrical and witty songwriting and this album scores highly on both accounts. Charlie Wood performed live at Ronnie Scott’s in the first half of February and whether you were able to enjoy that evening or not, fans of his style would be well served checking out another release, ‘Lush Life’ which came out on the Archer/Amber record label.