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Terry Edwards, Simon Charterton and Mark Beford make up the Near Jazz Experience

Terry Edwards, Simon Charterton and Mark Beford make up the Near Jazz Experience

NJE’s Afloat passes the road test

When drummer Simon Charterton isn’t championing the more challenging bands in town at Weird Sh*t nights, he’s playing music in a handful of bands including his super-group, Near Jazz Experience. This star-studded trio have just released a new album, Afloat. Erica Smith takes it for a spin up the A21.

The Near Jazz Experience (NJE) consists of Simon Charterton on drums (Higsons), Terry Edwards on saxophone (PJ Harvey) and Mark Bedford on bass (Madness). If their name is meant to pacify people who don’t like jazz, it’s a poor choice. Despite Charterton’s Can-inspired drumming, this trio rarely stray far from pure jazz – but that’s no bad thing in my book!

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 21.21.08There’s nothing better than a brand new CD to transform a boring journey into a joy, so last Saturday I set off up the A21 with Afloat for company. As I drove up London Road, the album kicked off with St Leonards Suite – gently luring jazz-phobics into a false sense of security with its krautrock percussion and guest Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip) on keyboard. It makes driving through Silverhill feel like I’m in a road movie – Kylie’s Carpets has never looked more alluring. By the end of the ten-minute track we’re in pure jazz world, give or take a little knob-twizzling-and-squealing by Mr Taylor.

Diamonds for Breakfast is a pretty little ditty which highlights Terry Edwards on sax. It’s got a lovely Blue Note feel. Edwards is a brilliant saxophonist, and can be a bit of a show-off (two saxophones at the same time…) but when you’re that good, it’s hard not to show off! Songo is a great dancey number with a latin feel. The title track, Afloat, slows the tempo right down to a lazy, lilo slumber. I can feel the sea twinkling behind my back as I head past Claremont.

Bongo Cut-Ups is short and jungley, a rhythmic little sketch before the epic St Mary’s Suite. This is one of my favourites, starting squeaky and experimental and slipping into a great Lounge Lizards sleazy night club vibe, complete with cheering dancers and tin whistles. I was enjoying this so much I didn’t make my usual stop off at the M&S services. It is worth mentioning that the entire album is instrumental, but there are sometimes background voices, reminiscent of Byrne and Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.

Beachcomber is the least jazzy of the tracks. An acheingly slow melodica, lulling bass and gentle Can-tastic percussion. It’s perfect for listening to whilst stuck in the tedious roadworks around Tunbridge Wells. The following track is an extraordinary instrumental version of Voodoo Child, another opportunity for Edwards to show-off like the Sax-God that he is.

Acoustic Pt I & II are getting into deep jazz territory. It reminds me of Coltrane’s version of My Favourite Things, but I might be getting into deep water with that kind of comparison. I could see/hear this being played down the Hastings Jazz Club at the Hastings and St Leonards Sea Angling Society club-house.

Knife-Edge is a lovely combination of edgey saxophone and noodling bass which leads us nicely up to the second cover version – a lovely jazzer exploration of We Three Kings. The saxophone has an exotic Ethiopiques sound and the arrangement is abstracted enough that I don’t even think about Christmas Carols. By this time I’m happily heading along the M25 towards the Dartford Tunnel. Top marks to Afloat for keeping me company all the way up the A21. *****

NJE have a Radio 6 Music live session coming up in September on Gideon Coe.
You can dowload Afloat for £8.99, or the single of Voodoo Child for £0.79 from Sartorial Records. The CD will also be available at NJE and Weird Sh*t/Sheared Wit gigs.
NJE will be at the Kino-Teatr, St Leonards, in December doing a live film soundtrack. They hope to squeeze in a visit to Weird Sh*t in the Borough Wines basement sometime before that.


Posted 23:54 Thursday, Aug 31, 2017 In: Music & Sound

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