Charlotte Keeffe
ALIVE! in the studio
Discus 160CD
(2023)
Available formats: CD/DL

 

“The radical spirit of offhand precarity which radiates throughout this session frequently bubbles over into an effervescent sense of the imperative to explore. In a word? Fearless.” – PRESTO MUSIC

“A messy emporium of raw, raucous realness. Alive.” Keeffe and her quartet nailed it.” – Sammy Stein, FREE JAZZ BLOG

“Charlotte Keeffe is rapidly developing a reputation as one of UK’s finest improvisers, and ALIVE! in the studio, her second album on the Discus label, amply confirms this reputation.” – Tony Dudley-Evans

 

Right Here, Right Now Quartet:

Charlotte Keeffe – Sound Brush / trumpet, flugelhorn and compositions
Ashley John Long – double bass
Ben Handysides – drums
Moss Freed – guitar

Produced by Martin Archer

For her second Discus Music release, Charlotte has convened her regular working quartet to explore open ended versions of her compositions which form the basis of their live set. Captured with energy and clarity in the studio, here we have 60 minutes of real group interaction where the music from each player is balanced equally within the total group sound.

Charlotte writes: “Charlotte Keeffe’s Right Here, Right Now Quartet featuring Ashley John Long, Ben Handysides and Moss Freed, is a breeding ground for squelchy, sploshy, splashy Sound Brush playing – music-making! …Overtly over-blowing, splitting, splattering, squirming, squeaking and squealing out ALIVE! Howling and hooting, chomping and chaffing… Dusty, distorted, flimsy, fragile, manic, ghostly, guttural sound strokes rip through whirlwinds and whirlpools of wholesome gooey-sound-dough! A turbulent tease, staggering, swaying, abruptly plunging into intentional vagueness… A messy emporium of raw, raucous realness. Alive. Right Here, Right Now. It is as it is…”

107CD – Charlotte Keeffe – Right Here, Right Now
107CD
Charlotte Keeffe
Right Here, Right Now

Reviews

One of the finest up and coming trumpeters on the UK scene, Charlotte Keefe’s résumé includes an ever increasing circle of collaborators including bassist Olie Brice, reedman Colin Webster and multi-instrumentalists Alex Ward and Martin Archer (the latter also boss of the Discus imprint). For the second album from her Right Here, Right Now Quartet, comprising guitarist Moss Freed, bassist Ashley John Long and drummer Ben Handysides, she aims to replicate a live set in the studio. If this is any indication of what they can do, run, don’t walk if they appear on a nearby stage. The 49-minute program confirms their strong suit as the mix of Keefe’s enticing compositions, the ensuing interplay and subsequent knotty improv. The recurring emergence of order from chaos (and vice versa) proves a winning strategy. Keefe has perfected the art of penning themes which furnish sufficient hooks for soloists to draw upon, without ever seemingly constraining them. She is particularly fond of the sort of woozy airs which the trumpet, with its lexicon of half notes and smears, can inflect with all manner of emotional dimensions. With regard to discourse Keefe herself provides an inventive focal point. Her blurts, flutters, growls, breaths and whispers frequently promote the loosest, most open interaction. Freed’s clean chiming lines and low key melodicism hark back to a jazzy lineage which offers an effective counterpoint to Keefe’s more out there machinations. Long and Handysides prove wholly attuned to the inside/outside ethos. Both slip seamlessly between propulsive vamps, prickly freeform and pithy commentary, either individually or in tandem. The first three cuts flow into a continuous bloc, offering a taster of how all this might work out in concert. The initial spiky exchanges of “1200 Photographs I” falls into the warm embrace of a bleary refrain before segueing into a tonally savvy drum tattoo at the outset of “A Horse Named Galaxy.” From here Long’s pizzicato riff fuels a perky trumpet/guitar unison, which opens up for another bravura spot from the leader atop some choppy backing support. That in turn begets the dirge-like ensemble musings of “Cottontail,” only to launch Freed’s gentle sunny guitar. And so on. Keefe ends the album on an exuberant note, as the band relaxes into the joyful highlife lilt of “Brentford” (perhaps the only time those words have figured in the same sentence) then take the piece out by singing the melody a cappella. It is a lovely touch, maybe evidence of producer Archer’s well-proven flair for curating a satisfying listening experience. But it is the collective ability to switch in and out of tempo, form and freedom which especially distinguishes Keefe’s thrillingly realized conception. – John Sharpe, ALL ABOUT JAZZ https://www.allaboutjazz.com/alive-in-the-studio-charlotte-keefe-right-here-right-now-quartet-discus-music

Charlotte Keeffe is rapidly developing a reputation as one of UK’s finest improvisers, and ALIVE! in the studio, her second album on the Discus label, amply confirms this reputation. Charlotte is an extremely versatile player on the trumpet and flugelhorn , whose sound can be lyrical one moment and, to quote the CD sleeve, ‘squelchy, sploshy and splashy’ in the next. In her Right Here, Right Now quartet, she has put a group of equally fine and versatile improvisers, guitarist Moss Freed, bass player Ashley John Long and drummer Ben Handysides. Her first album on the Discus label, reviewed on London Jazz News, presented Charlotte in a number of contexts, from the London Improvisers Orchestra to solo performances as well as the regular quartet tracks; this second album concentrates entirely on the Right Here, Right Now quartet. It’s an album that is full of energy, full of fun and which captures the brio of the quartet’s live performances. What truly distinguishes the music, however, is the way that Charlotte integrates composition and improvisation. This is not a totally free set, but rather one that moves, often quite dramatically, between composition, individual solos, duos, trios and collective improvisation. It is an approach that seems to be becoming increasingly common, especially in continental Europe. It was particularly apparent at the recent JazzFest Berlin, the review of which is here. There are three tracks with the title Photographs, and these present Charlotte exploring the range of the trumpet and squeezing every possible sound from it. This is particularly the case with Photographs I and II, but on Photographs III she adopts a more lyrical approach. These three tracks also feature fiery collective improvisation. On other tracks, for example A Horse Named Galaxy, the focus is initially on the composition, which has a nice bouncy theme, and then on individual solos in a more conventional jazz head + solos approach Throughout Moss Freed and Ashley John Long contribute both strong solos and participation in the collective improvisation, and Ben Handysides provides strong and inventive support on the drums. Cottontail provides an excellent example of their contributions, with a guitar solo, then a bass solo leading into the collective improvisation. I should also mention EastEnders on which the interaction between Moss and Charlotte is a particular highlight of the album. Sweet,Corn has a very strong rhythmic theme led by Moss’ guitar before going into a passionate and lyrical solo from Charlotte, and Brentford, Charlotte’s tribute to her father’s football team, has a similarly rhythmic theme which leads into a vocal but wordless football chant from the quartet. The Right Here, Right Now quartet has been gigging around the UK, playing clubs and the occasional festival, and has become a group that clearly enjoys playing together, and is capable of quite dramatic changes of pace, moving from attractive themes into collective improvisation with either Charlotte’s ‘squelchy’ trumpet, or Moss’ lyrical guitar dominant. All this comes across on the CD. – Tony Dudley-Evans, https://tdepromotions.wordpress.com/

Diverse trumpeter and flugelhorn player Charlotte Keeffe is a restless soul and one who itches for musical opportunities. For this album, she has has re-assembled the quartet that appeared on the previous album Right Here, Right Now and thrown them into the studio to see what can come from this immediate interaction. Each of the pieces presented here are instinctual journeys traveling from structural bases and disappearing into an ever expanding improvisational universe. Playful intros often hinting at their improv roots, all players tinkering, dropping sounds into a hidden well and seeing what lands first; a shuffle, a snort, a stamp of the foot, a tingling guitar run that is mimicked almost cheekily by the trumpet. They chase one another, blearing and bleating, fast and slow, pensive then forthright; and then all hands inside as they dip into the abyss. Fully textured drums with dreamy cymbal clatter and fleet footed diagonals, the rimshots waking us from our slumber. The sharpness then makes for a sweet treat of a bass riff, tumbling up and down, breathless through the ragged pathways. The trumpet gives it an old-fashioned TV show shot, our ears pricking with possible familiarities as the ghost of Django Reinhardt steps lightly. The resonance and stretch of the bass is divine, while the guitar and trumpet appear like jugglers, passing the objects between them, daring the other to drop the ever increasing load. At other points they stall, stuck in the mud, wheels spinning. Spattering the surroundings with clods of whatever is picked up, dodging and ducking to avoid a clout in the eye while elsewhere the cutest of guitar led melancholy melodies tugs at the heartstrings. It is also so nice to hear a bass with ample opportunity to stun us with solo sensibilities; melodic, mellow, ever an antithesis to the fractured, fluctuating flugel. You feel as if that is a hint of Joaquín Rodrigo‘s Concerto de Aranjuez, but as if heard through a blender filled with cotton wool and those noises that Charlotte teases from her horns. Breathy blasts that taunt the guitar which hobbles and quivers in response. In fact, Charlotte plays like she has a radio dial that somebody is gaily twisting, taking her through the spectrum, moving from melody to mania in a swift twist. Helicopter noises from the drums seem unlikely, guitar pick-up stutter fragmented, trumpet moving just out of reach; it is hard to make yourself comfortable as a hint of “Summertime” (or is it?) wavers in the air. Guitar feeds back over droplets of sound scattered across a windswept lake while the trumpet comes across like a horn / human hybrid; the noises escaping are neither one thing or the other, inhuman eructations prompting the others to diversify if they can. An anti-rock, obsessive, cyclical motif escapes towards the end. It is a beautiful thing to which they return time and again, powerful cymbal play disappears into a Technicolor stratosphere, hurling in violent orbit as the trumpet reeds disintegrate upon re-entry. We end with another bass-led lullaby, the pure woodblock texture lending an ’80s-ish slant to the guitar and bass interplay; and when wordless voices finally break out, it all makes perfect sense, a joyous, wordless exclamation that nothing can follow. Alive! In The Studio is a shapeshifting delight of an album, an explosion of sounds and rhythmic interjections that never really lets up. Impressive stuff. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ https://freq.org.uk/reviews/charlotte-keeffe-alive-in-the-studio/

A staple of the experimental jazz scene, Keeffe can be found at all four corners of both the British and European live circuits. As she shares her unique improvisatory approach amongst a veritable travelogue of fellow collaborators up and down the country, this recording sees her put a lid on her more extemporaneous pursuits in order to commit to a solid hour of quartet-based mischief. The radical spirit of offhand precarity which radiates throughout this session frequently bubbles over into an effervescent sense of the imperative to explore. In a word? Fearless. – PRESTO MUSIC

Charlotte Keeffe has recently been gaining recognition that is more than justified and is becoming one of the strongest voices in improvised music. Her second release on Discus Music sees Keeffe with her regular working quartet exploring her compositions which she describes as open-ended. Recorded in a studio, the 60 minutes of music deftly captures the quartet’s energy and vibrance. Keeffe’s composition has to be admired because in all the tracks, there is ample room for each musician to shine and demonstrate why Keeffe chooses to play with such class improvisers, but also space for collective expression and this feels important to this quartet. The quartet comprises double bass player Ashley John Long, drummer Ben Handysides guitar player Moss Freed and Charlotte Keeffe on Sound Brush/Trumpet and flugelhorn. Keeffe is also the composer. Keeffe’s Right Here Right Now quartet was featured on BBC Radio 3’s Freeness show titled ‘The Trumpet Shall Paint’. This was the quartet’s second BBC Radio 3 Freeness feature this year and they recorded their Manchester Jazz Festival set especially for the show too. Charlotte told me she was ‘bursting to get the music out there’ for this release, and I am not surprised. It is one of those rare recordings where you sense the absolute comfort of the musicians involved. They are playing music under the leadership of someone who understands improvisation, the space musicians need, and also the way to draw the best from each one. Moss Freed in particular shines on this album, but each player contributes a strong essence and also comes together in beautiful discourse. On the final track, the quartet produces a surprising and glorious harmonic vocal section. The album contains surprises and delights, from the delicious outbursts and tuneful blurts on ‘1200 Photographs 1 and 3’ and the melodic, tuneful (as in full of tunes, rather than a single melody) delight that is ‘A Horse Named Galaxy’ with a drum solo, consistent bass, and tuneful rhythmic phrasing in the melodic section, improvised sounds around the bass and trumpet sharing the lead, overtopped with deftly inserted guitar riffs and solo. ‘Cotton Tail’ is a gentle track with pretty melodies trickling from the guitar contrasting with the devilish improvisation around the guitar work and just check out Keeffe’s flying trumpet on this track. Keeffe’s musicality is superb. She effortlessly switches from melodic interludes to primal screeches and waffles. She has that knack for understanding what the music needs and just when it needs it. At times, her trumpet sighs softly, whispering sweetness, and at others, it blasts and blares like a demonic imp forcefully rising from the depths of sound provided by the quartet. The mix of sounds on this album is extraordinary – although improvising musicians, at times, they fall easily into harmonic melodies, creating a palpable essence of unity. Keeffe’s playfulness is apparent on many tracks – for example on ‘1200 Photographs 2’ where it feels like a Mexican dance is about to start at any moment, before the drums change the rhythmic overtones and Keeffe sets off on another diversion and a honk fest commences, or ‘Eastenders’ where the trumpet lays down improvised lines, and the rest of the quartet respond in musical conversation. The light touches in ‘Wholeness’ and the slight messiness of ‘1200 photographs 3’ provide interest and ‘Sweet, Corn’ is a gorgeous track that demonstrates the togetherness of this quartet, as they run together across a range of rhythmic and timed diversions, held by the glue of a repeated 6 note riff to the final improvised breakdown – wonderfully diverse. These versions of Keeffe’s compositions captured for clarity in the studio, form the basis of the quartet’s live set and one thing is for certain. The possibilities in this music are endless. The artwork on the cover is note-worthy too, as Gina Southgate once again captures a band in amorphous form. When Keeffe asked for a review, she sent me her description of the music in a short narrative/poem. It read: “Right Here, Right Now. It is as it is… Charlotte Keeffe’s Right Here, Right Now Quartet featuring Ashley John Long, Ben Handysides, and Moss Freed, is a breeding ground for squelchy, sploshy, splashy Sound Brush playing – music-making! Overtly over-blowing, splitting, splattering, squirming, squeaking, and squealing out ALIVE! Howling and hooting, chomping, and chaffing… Dusty, distorted, flimsy, fragile, manic, ghostly, guttural sound strokes rip through whirlwinds and whirlpools of wholesome gooey sound dough! A turbulent tease, staggering, swaying, abruptly plunging into intentional vagueness… A messy emporium of raw, raucous realness. Alive.” Keeffe and her quartet nailed it. – Sammy Stein, FREE JAZZ BLOG https://www.freejazzblog.org/2023/11/charlotte-keeffes-right-here-right-now.html?m=1

UK musician Charlotte Keeffe describes her instruments – trumpet, flugel, electronics – as sound brushes, and indeed there’s a painterly quality to the way she works daubs and swirls of harmonic colour across the canvas of her compositions. From the cosmic Americana of “A Horse Named Galaxy” to the delicate “Cottontail”, Keeffe has a lovely melodic touch, which she and her band deftly open up into free improvisation. Abstracted takes on “1200 Photographs” from  2021’s Right Here Right Now form the spine of the album with guitarist Moss Freed and drummer Ben Handysides’s skittish interplay accompanying Keeffe’s impressive array of trumpet effects. – Stewart Smith, THE WIRE

My favorite British label for avant jazz and progressive music, Discus Music, just dropped seven CD’s on us and this is a great thing. Over the past few years UK trumpeter/composer, Charlotte Keeffe has appeared on a dozen plus discs for Discus as a leader and working with Martin Archer, Paul Dunmall, Alex Ward and Julie Tippetts. This is Ms Keeffe’s fourth disc as a leader or co-leader. Although her last leader date included a solo, duo, quartet and large ensemble groupings, this one is her quartet. Ms. Keeffe has worked with all three members of her quartet previously and we can also see them listed with other projects for the Discus Music label. It is interesting to note that both Moss Freed and Ms. Keeffe play with conductor/arranger Sam Eastmond for John Zorn’s recent Bagatelles Box – Volume 4. Ms. Keeffe’s trumpet is featured on the opener, “1200 Photographs I”, playing through a variety of approaches, similar to the way that Nate Wooley keeps shifting as he plays. This piece is free yet focused with all four members of the quartet playing loosely around one another. “A Horse Named Galaxy” starts off with just the drums but soon the bassist joins playing this joyous up & down groove. The bass keeps the groove going while guitarist Moss Freed plays a fine, slinky Pat Metheny-like solo and is soon joined by Ms. Keeffe’s equally playful flugelhorn. Both Ms. Keeffe and Mr. Freed have lovely, sublime tones showing off a more tender side at times, adding Mr. Long’s solemn bowed bass as well. “Cottontail” is an exquisite ballad, laid back and dreamy, with a righteous bass solo midway. On “1200 Photographs II” Ms. Keeffe sounds like she is playing some fragments from standards at times while the quartet plays freely around her. This is like an interlude which leads to “EastEnders” (the name of British soap opera from the 1980’s). This piece has some strong freer sections with some subtle electronics or sound manipulation going on. What’s interesting here is that many of the freer sounding sections are the quieter ones which also sound like someone is directing the flow. On “1200 Photographs III” we hear fragments of melodies played by the trumpet, could each fragment represent a lost photo? “Sweet.Corn” is a great, tight, uptempo piece with the entire quartet playing their lines as one force before dropping into some short free eruptions. Both Ms. Keeffee and Mr. Moss are gifted, diverse musicians who get several chances to stretch and show up their creative playing. The rhythm also fits just right, coming in and dropping out at the right times. I get the feeling that the more I listen to this disc, the more I hear how the pieces are connected and hold together as a suite. Impressive yet modest and never too much of any one thing. – Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG NYC

‘1200 Photographs’, ‘Sweet, Corn’ und ‘A Horse Named Galaxy’ hatte CHARLOTTE ‘s KEEFFE schon auf „Right Here, Right Now“ (Discus 107CD) angestimmt mit Moss Freed (Moss Project, Let Spin) an einer Gitarre mit silbernen Saiten, Ashley John Long, dem bei Paul Dunmall bewährten Kontrabass-Wizard, und Ben Handysides an Drums. Auf Alive! In The Studio (Discus 160CD) knöpft sich nun dieses RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW QUARTET diese Stücke erneut vor, ‘1200 Photographs’ dabei verdreifacht, und zudem das beklem­mend zarte ‘Cottontail’, ‘EastEnders’, ‘Wholeness’ und ‘Brentford’. Als Selfies einer phantastischen Trompeterin & Flügelhornistin und Schnappschüsse britischer Freispiel­launen, mit berührenden Ausschlägen auf der Krabbel-, Klapper- und Tröt-Skala und Melo­dien, die, wenn sie katholisch wären, selig gesprochen werden müssten. – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY [BA 121 rbd]

Playing a mixture of free jazz and more conventional post-bop jazz, Charlotte Keeffe has developed into one of Britain’s top trumpeters and flugelhorn players. This is her second CD for the Discus label and she is accompanied by Moss Freed on electric guitar, Ashley John Long on double bass and Ben Handysides on drums. There is one thing about Charlotte, she doesn’t take herself too seriously, and is honest in describing the music as ‘messy’, using an abundance of alliterative adjectives to make the point e.g. squelchy, sploshy (I haven’t heard those applied to Jazz before!), squeaking, squealing, howling, hooting – you got it, she loves to experiment. Perhaps there is a little too much that is free about it for most tastes, but I particularly enjoyed the playfulness of ‘1200 Photographs 3’ where the guitarist (as elsewhere) seems to channel his inner John McLaughlin. Of course, the melodies are all the more impactful when they appear, as on ‘A Horse Named Galaxy’, an articulate, accessible new post-bop classic to my ears with fluid bass, the guitar busily picking out the theme and soloing nicely. ‘Sweet, Corn’ is another case in point, the seeds of another very strong post-bop piece falling apart only to reassemble itself; it is ingenuously executed. The album is worth a listen even for these three pieces alone. I thought I would like ‘Brentford’ being the name of my favourite English football team (it has a pretty tune, vocalised at the end by the band, sounding more African than West London) NB I’ve supported them since a boy for the obscurest of reasons, too complicated to relate here – a bit like the music, I suppose, but I do enjoy a bit of a challenge and “Alive in the Studio!” certainly shook me out of my lethargy. I suspect I shall be returning to it soon to uncover some more gems. – Benedict Jackson, dimensions-in-sound-and-space

With ALIVE! In The Studio, trumpet and flugelhorn virtuoso Charlotte Keeffe helms a dexterous collection that showcases her ability to move effortlessly between the myriad dimensions of jazz. Unlike her solo material, wherein she embraces electronics to augment and complement her playing, as leader of a quartet, the emphasis is naturally on coordination among her fellow musicians – Ashley John Long (double bass), Ben Handysides (drums) and Moss Freed (guitar). At the more extreme experimental end of the jazz spectrum, the ‘1200 Photographs’ triptych is largely focused on texture and noisy improvisation. Here, Keeffe leads the way with a series of fragments and gestures that writhe and fidget, accompanied by unpredictable percussion and scratchy guitar figures that occasionally settle into searching, blues-y statements. At the other extreme, ‘A Horse Named Galaxy’ leans into a more melodic style of playing, with Keeffe’s central refrain having all the classic, memorable qualities of a Miles Davis riff circa ‘Freddie Freeloader’, the contrapuntal melodies of Long’s bass creating a easy, languid unity at the core of the piece. Even as the track collapses into a sprawling, distant cousin of itself, Keeffe resurrects her motif at various different tempi, the melody taking on an increasingly hyperactive tone as everything collapses in on itself. Speaking of Miles, ‘EastEnders’ is not a jazz rendition of the beloved UK soap opera’s theme tune but a deeply funky, expansive cut reminiscent of his wild, electric-period statements. ‘Sweet, Corn’ is one of the most captivating tracks on this collection. A white hot, almost urgent rhythmic backbone dominates this piece, the tension only breaking when Keeffe’s horn erupts into the foreground. For some reason, brief moments in the track remind me of ‘Jet Song’ from ‘West Side Story’, though every time I alight on what I think it is that evokes that memory, it writhes away from me elusively. Adventurous, playful and reverential, with ‘ALIVE! In The Studio’, Keeffe offers different perspectives on the jazz form, while clearly having a huge amount of fun. The clue is in the title – to listen to this album, and to experience its many gestures, is to truly be joyously, gratefully and rapturously alive. ALIVE! In The Studio by Charlotte Keeffe / Right Here, Right Now Quartet was released September 22 2023 by Discus Music. – Mat Smith https://furtherdot.com/

Top 10 album of the year. Choosing just one album out of the many wonderful improvised standards or new compositions that have come my way this year is difficult, but one album that stood out for me that is Charlotte Keeffe and her quartet’s energy-infused Right Here, Right Now Alive, which captures the vibrance of Keeffe’s compositions.. The quartet comprises double bass player Ashley John Long, drummer Ben Handysides and guitar player Moss Freed, with Keeffe on sound brush/trumpet and flugelhorn. This recording demonstrates the quartet’s ease playing under a leader who understands improvisation, the space musicians need, but also how to draw the best from each player. Keeffe’s trumpet playing is particularly brilliant. At times, the trumpet sighs softly, whispering sweetness, and at others it blasts and blares like a demonic imp. Right Here, Right Now is a wonderful, squishy, squelchy, warm embrace of improvised music at its best. – Sammy Stein Readers Digest https://www.readersdigest.co.uk/culture/music/albums-of-the-year-2023

https://furtherdot.com/author/429harrowroad/
With ALIVE! In The Studio, trumpet and flugelhorn virtuoso Charlotte Keeffe helms a dexterous collection that showcases her ability to move effortlessly between the myriad dimensions of jazz. Unlike her solo material, wherein she embraces electronics to augment and complement her playing, as leader of a quartet, the emphasis is naturally on coordination among her fellow musicians – Ashley John Long (double bass), Ben Handysides (drums) and Moss Freed (guitar). At the more extreme experimental end of the jazz spectrum, the ‘1200 Photographs’ triptych is largely focused on texture and noisy improvisation. Here, Keeffe leads the way with a series of fragments and gestures that writhe and fidget, accompanied by unpredictable percussion and scratchy guitar figures that occasionally settle into searching, blues-y statements. At the other extreme, ‘A Horse Named Galaxy’ leans into a more melodic style of playing, with Keeffe’s central refrain having all the classic, memorable qualities of a Miles Davis riff circa ‘Freddie Freeloader’, the contrapuntal melodies of Long’s bass creating a easy, languid unity at the core of the piece. Even as the track collapses into a sprawling, distant cousin of itself, Keeffe resurrects her motif at various different tempi, the melody taking on an increasingly hyperactive tone as everything collapses in on itself. Speaking of Miles, ‘EastEnders’ is not a jazz rendition of the beloved UK soap opera’s theme tune but a deeply funky, expansive cut reminiscent of his wild, electric-period statements. ‘Sweet, Corn’ is one of the most captivating tracks on this collection. A white hot, almost urgent rhythmic backbone dominates this piece, the tension only breaking when Keeffe’s horn erupts into the foreground. For some reason, brief moments in the track remind me of ‘Jet Song’ from ‘West Side Story’, though every time I alight on what I think it is that evokes that memory, it writhes away from me elusively. Adventurous, playful and reverential, with ‘ALIVE! In The Studio’, Keeffe offers different perspectives on the jazz form, while clearly having a huge amount of fun. The clue is in the title – to listen to this album, and to experience its many gestures, is to truly be joyously, gratefully and rapturously alive.https://furtherdot.com/author/429harrowroad/

The British trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe proposes for her quartet – Moss Freed on guitar, Ben Handysides on drums and Ashley John Long on double bass – a live situation in the studio: an improvisational situation capable of transmitting the genuineness of the extemporaneous sound – a mix of modern jazz , avant-garde and free – through registration. Some songs (for example 1200 Photographs I and II ) are free and abstract, articulating this dimension thanks to the intertwining of the instruments, as happens in 1200 Photographs III with the melodic networks woven by trumpet and guitar, or evoking atmospheres of mystery ( Wholeness ) . Elsewhere – ( A Horese Named Galaxy ) – the references are a little different: here the singability of the theme and the sound generated by the combination of the trumpet and the guitar in a dancing rhythmic context evokes the sound of Enrico Rava ‘s Electric Five . The radicality of the improvisational experimentation, moderated however by a taste for the specific context and embellished by instrumental skill, is the hallmark of the album: in EastEnders the introduction of Keeffe ‘s scratchy trumpet , supported by collective outbursts of bass, drums and guitar, flows into a pulsating rhythm (also characteristic of Sweet Corn) , and then returns to the abstract dimension of the beginning. A great thematic double bass solo is the most appreciable aspect of Cottontail , while Brentford ‘s festive dance concludes this musical encounter with joy, right here and right now. Rating: 8/10 – Alessandro Bertinetto, KATHODIK https://www.kathodik.org/2024/01/26/charlotte-keeffe-right-here-right-now-quartet-alive-in-the-studio/

Op deze tweede schijf voor het Discus label gooit Keeffe 9 tracks open voor haar traditionele kwartet. Dat betekent dat er een muzikale dialoog ontstaat, waarin de muzikale lijnen elkaar in evenwicht moeten proberen te houden. De bandleden worden daarin gesteund door de composities van de trompettiste maar ze zijn ook totaal vrij. De hele plaat is dus een muzikaal discours dat op elk moment zowat alle kanten op kan. Bij het luisteren is het dan ook interessant te horen wie door wie geïnspireerd wordt en hoe muzikale cellen productief onderzocht worden. De plaat is gekenmerkt door een container energie, en alle stemmingen wervelen dooreen: energiek, poëtisch, zacht, agressief, uitbundig, zoekend, kortom: elke gemoedsstemming kan plots in een muzikale vorm springen. Als luisteraar ben je dus getuige van een creatief proces dat in het moment plaatsgrijpt. Vandaar de titel. Boeiend en fascinerend, maar niet voor het doorsnee oor, vrezen we… – Marc Van de Walle https://jazzandmo.be/alive-in-the-studio

We discovered the British trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe two years ago, in a first enjoyable album called Right Here Right Now, released by Discus Music. In it, she gave an inventory of her musical research through orchestral configurations ranging from solo to large ensemble. Today, she can be found with her regular quartet, the aptly named Right Here, Right Now Quartet, along with guitarist Moss Freed, bassist Ashley John Long and drummer Ben Handysides. The repertoire of the disc is that which the quartet regularly plays in concert [1]. However, the four musicians offer longer, more open versions in which improvisation plays a preponderant role. The album was recorded in live conditions, hence its title Alive! In The Studio. The compositions are all by the trumpeter. Sometimes unbridled, sometimes looser, they revolve around a central theme that serves as a fulcrum for collective improvisation. Keeffe willingly provides plenty of space to let the music happen. Playful, very energetic and very readable, the quartet’s music is served by a most stimulating interpretation. The trumpeter’s playing is very direct, almost frontal. Her great mastery of the instrument allows her to make great stylistic differences, navigating from a chiseled melodic line to the most dissonant noise, from whisper to scream, all with the same vital energy. Moss Freed seems to be the ideal complement to the trumpeter’s ardour, as his chiseled and airy playing fits perfectly with Keeffe’s. As for the other two musicians, Ashley John Long (a great discovery) and Ben Handysides, they form a supple and skilful rhythmic on which the music is based. – Julien Aunos, CITIZEN JAZZ https://www.citizenjazz.com/Charlotte-Keeffe-Right-Here-Right-Now-Quartet.html

A belated but timely look at this Discus Music release which was initially issued in September 2023. However with trumpeter, composer, improviser and bandleader Charlotte Keeffe due to appear with her Right Here, Right Now Quartet at the forthcoming 2024 Cheltenham Jazz Festival now seems like a particularly apposite time for me to write this long overdue review.

London based Keeffe is a graduate of the Jazz Course at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff and even wrote for The Jazzmann as a guest contributor during her student days. She has been part of the Serious organisation’s Take Five scheme and is currently a member of the influential Women in Jazz Media collective.

Since becoming a professional musician Keeffe has been increasingly drawn towards the experimental end of the jazz spectrum and released her debut album “Right Here, Right Now” on the Discus label in 2021. This saw her performing in a variety of musical formats including her regular quartet with guitarist Moss Freed, bassist Ashley John Long and drummer Ben Handysides. Other featured musicians included guitarist Diego Sampieri, pianist Steve Beresford, saxophonist Caroline Kraabel, bassist John Edwards and vocalists Maggie Nicols and Phil Minton. The album also included a number of large scale collaborations with members of the London Improvisers Orchestra.

Keeffe has collaborated with many of the leading figures on the UK’s free jazz and improvised music scene and has established a strong relationship with the Sheffield based Discus Music record label founded and run by saxophonist Martin Archer.

Keeffe’s other Discus related projects include co-leadership, with Archer, of the seven piece Anthropology Band and membership of the trio Hi Res Heart, featuring Keeffe, Archer and vibraphonist / percussionist Martin Pyne.

Keeffe’s credits as a sidewoman are too numerous to mention in full but she has appeared on the Jazzmann web pages in reviews of recordings by saxophonist Colin Webster and clarinettist / guitarist Alex Ward. In 2019 she appeared in a more mainstream context as part of the Steve Waterman Big Band at that year’s Brecon Jazz Festival.

Keeffe draws great inspiration from the visual arts and particularly the works of abstract painters. The work of Gina Southgate, an improvising artist who paints images of musical performers in real time as they play, adorns the sleeve of this new recording.

Keeffe describes her instruments as “sound brushes” and uses the name Sound Brush for her solo trumpet project. Something of the visual approach of the abstract painters also informs the music making of the group that Keeffe has dubbed the Right Here, Right Now Quartet. Her album liner notes describe the recording session for “ALIVE! in the studio” thus; “A breeding ground for squelchy, sploshy, splashy Sound Brush playing – music-making! …Overtly over-blowing, splitting, splattering, squirming, squeaking and squealing out ALIVE! Howling and hooting, chomping and chaffing… Dusty, distorted, flimsy, fragile, manic, ghostly, guttural sound strokes rip through whirlwinds and whirlpools of wholesome gooey-sound-dough! A turbulent tease, staggering, swaying, abruptly plunging into intentional vagueness… A messy emporium of raw, raucous realness. Alive. Right Here, Right Now. It is as it is…”

The album was recorded over the course of a single day in April 2023 at Goldsmiths Music Studios in London by the engineering team of Nicholas Powell and Ollie Greville. It was subsequently mastered and produced in Sheffield by engineer Dean Honer and producer Martin Archer.

The programme features nine open ended interpretations of Keeffe’s compositions by the members of her regular working quartet. These pieces typically form the core of the group’s live sets and each band member is balanced equally within the sound mix.

Keeffe’s interest in the visual arts also finds expression in the title of the opening piece “1200 Photographs 1”, with two other items in this series featuring later on. An attention grabbing solo trumpet intro quickly establishes that messy Sound Brush sound world described in the liner notes as Keeffe combines conventional and extended techniques. The mood of the piece is initially hectic but playful, with the rest of the quartet responding to Keeffe’s scurrying and scuttling trumpet phrases. But this is music where the mood can change on a whim and there are more reflective and introspective moments too with Freed’s guitar and Long’s bass coming to the fore, skilfully shadowed by Handysides’ drums. When Keeffe returns her playing is more measured and brooding. An excellent and intriguing start, well captured by the engineering / production team in a pinpoint sound mix that captures all the subtleties and nuances of the playing.

The music segues almost seamlessly into “A Horse Named Galaxy”, which is introduced by the sounds of cymbal crashes and shimmers and the rumble of toms during the course of an extended solo drum intro. Handysides almost seems to play melodies on his drums, and these are picked up by Long, Freed and Keeffe with bassist Long establishing a strong groove that helps to underpin one of Keeffe’s strongest melodic themes.

Throughout the album there is a good balance between composition and improvisation, this is far more than ‘just a free jazz record’. This piece also features a beguiling dialogue between Freed and Long underpinned by Handysides’ ever evolving drum grooves. The bleary sound of the leader’s trumpet then introduces a more obvious ‘free jazz’ episode as this malleable music continues to mutate and evolve. On the whole this is one of the album’s more accessible pieces and must surely be one of the highlights of the quartet’s live sets.

The free jazz section at the end of “Horse” evolves into the brooding intro to “Cottontail”, which features the melancholy ring of the leader’s trumpet and the rich, dark tones of Long’s bowed bass. A gentle passage of unaccompanied guitar then transports us to a Bill Frisell style Americana, with Freed subsequently joined by Long’s plucked bass and the delicate swish of Handysides’ brushes. Cardiff based Long is a musician that I have seen perform live on multiple occasions and I’d surmise that his musical relationship with Keeffe probably dates back to the trumpeter’s student days. Long is a phenomenal bass soloist both with and without the bow and his pizzicato solo here is a melodic delight. Again the balance between composition and improvisation is finely balanced as the leader returns to steer the music back into more obviously free jazz waters, prior to something of a reprise of the opening passage, with Long again taking up the bow.

“1200 Photographs II” is ushered in by a stunning passage of unaccompanied trumpet that explores the full range of the instrument’s sonic possibilities, including some remarkable vocalised sounds. Eventually Long and Handyside respond as the piece embraces a passage of fractious and fiery collective improvisation with Freed’s shadowy guitar adding an extra instrumental voice to the proceedings.

“EastEnders” also introduces itself with a passage of solo trumpet, more aggressive and bleary this time, with the rest of the quartet responding in kind in a vigorous series of drum led barrages. Eventually a lurching riff cum groove emerges with Handysides’ sturdy drumming providing the platform for a series of ferocious exchanges between guitar and trumpet, with Keeffe again testing her instrument to the limit and with Freed wringing some extraordinary sounds from his axe as the music develops into a series of ferocious free jazz squalls, with Handysides also a very willing participant.

Generally a gentler, more atmospheric blend of abstraction informs “Wholeness”, the opening section embracing trumpet whispers and moans plus the sounds of bowed bass, pointillist guitar and the chimes and rustling of small percussion. A delicate guitar passage leads to a militaristic drum assault, this followed by some extraordinary collective improvising led by Keeffe’s remarkable trumpet vocalisations and embracing the sounds of scratchy guitar and bowed bass.

The mood continues into “1200 Photographs III” which features more intensive group interaction, with Freed’s guitar again occupying a significant role in the proceedings. Guitar and trumpet intertwine, sometimes fractiously, as Handysides adds increasingly insistent percussive commentary to the proceedings. Fragments of melody hint at a more mainstream sensibility and Keeffe delivers an extraordinary unaccompanied trumpet coda at the end of the piece, again exploring the whole range of the instrument – and beyond.

“Sweet,Corn” is more obviously composed with Freed’s arpeggiated guitar intro seized upon by bass and drums to create a complex but buoyant groove above which the leader delivers jagged but infectious trumpet riffs and melodies. Long’s bass motif keeps re-emerging even when the music threatens to shade off into abstraction and those dazzling trumpet riffs and melodies come around again before another lurch into violently turbulent improvised waters, with the leader sounding particularly bellicose. Then that bass figure rises up once more, paving the way for the re-emergence of the theme and a rousing finish. Again this is one of the album’s most accessible items, a musical set piece that must surely thrill, frighten and delight live audiences.

The album concludes with “Brentford”, apparently written in honour of Keeffe’s father’s favourite football team. The piece is ushered in by an extended, and very beguiling, dialogue between Long’s bass and Handysides’ drums and percussion. With the addition of guitar and trumpet the music embraces more of a celebratory feel with a strong melody that suggests the influence of Township Jazz. There’s a final lurch into uproarious free jazz territory before the melody re-emerges and is taken by the band members as a kind of wordless football chant. It’s a delightfully celebratory and playful way to round off a very enjoyable album.

With its blend of structure and freedom this is album that occupies an area of jazz that I have come to enjoy more and more with the passing of the years. With its noisy bursts of free jazz it won’t suit everybody’s ears, but for me it holds considerable appeal.

It’s not the easiest music to describe, although I hope my efforts do it justice. Keeffe’s own liner notes pretty much nail how this lively, playful, constantly mutating music sounds. No single piece stays in one place for long, this is music that is constantly shape-shifting in terms of both mood and style. The musicians sound as if they’re having great fun, constantly challenging each other but doing so in an adventurous, mutually supportive way. The range of sounds that Keeffe draws from her horns is extraordinary, a bright and vivid sonic palette, to continue the painting analogies, and one that she uses boldly throughout this series of ear catching musical canvasses. In Freed, Long and Handysides she has three accomplices who are totally attuned to her musical vision, all fearless improvisers themselves. I’ve long been familiar with the playing of both Freed and Long but that of Handysides is a real revelation. He’s a busy, inventive and vital presence throughout and a key part in the success of the music. – Ian Mann, THE JAZZ MANN https://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/alive-in-the-studio

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