Music Is My Monkey
Angel of Despair
Until the Fall
Charlie Wood - Vocals, piano, Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, Hammond B-3
Tom Walsh - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Mark Nightingale - Trombone
Ben Castle - Saxophone
Chris Allard - Electric, acoustic guitar
Dudley Phillips - Electric, acoustic bass
Nic France - Drums, percussion
Jacqui Dankworth - Backing vocals
Magnus Johnston - Leader (strings)
Marije Ploemacher, Marcus Barcham-Stevens - Violins 1 and 2
Clare Finnimore, Simone van der Giessen - Violas
Caroline Dearnley, Jane Fenton - Cellos
Make no mistake about it, Charlie Wood is a rare talent. As a composer, he contributed three songs to Jacqui Dankworth's 2014 album Live To Love and as a musician he provided splendid accompaniment on piano and Fender Rhodes as a significant part of her backing group on
that disc. He even helped out his wife (he is married to Jacqui) with backing vocals. Well, the compliment is returned by Jacqui vis a vis both
co-production and backing vocals on this new CD from Charlie, New Souvenirs. Wood's singing voice is something of a revelation when it
occupies centre stage, as it does here. It is easy on the ear, jazz inflected and with a touch of soul. The nearest comparison I can make is with
Harry Connick Jnr but Wood is quite distinctive. He's also written all the songs on the album and shows a poetic, literate ability, producing wry,
funny and rueful lyrics as well as catchy tunes.
There are some great musicians on this session, too. Wood himself is no slouch when it comes to piano, organ or electric keyboard (listen, for
example, to Music Is My Monkey, Angel of Despair or Winter Song to get some idea of his range). Chris Allard on guitar
is faultless throughout as is Ben Castle on sax and, if you want to hear a musician near the top of his game, try Ghost Town and
trombonist Mark Nightingale. Bass player Dudley Phillips has an inventive solo here, too). The Wheeler-like Tom Walsh is heard to good effect on Until the Fall.
Among an embarrassment of riches, I especially liked Promised Land featuring the organ in waltz-time plus Allard's melodic touch, Detaché which is jaunty, infectious and all too brief, sung stylishly by Wood, and Mercy, another Allard showcase but
with a strong instrumental showing by Wood, too. Wood shows a consistent capacity to deliver a lyric with clarity and panache, almost anywhere you
choose to listen. The only track which didn't quite hit the spot for me was Tube yet even in this case, the ensemble work was of a high
standard, for instance.
From what I've written, you'll gather that I rate this album. It's certainly one I'll be coming back to - songs like Mercy are firmly
lodged in the memory bank after a mere couple of hearings!