One of the UK’s leading keys players, Charlie Stacey improvisational skills are unmatched. Known for his work with Yussef Dayes and fellow Tomorrow Warrio’s alumni such as Moses Boyd, Stacey’s technical prowess and ability to jump between genres has quietly gained the young pianist a reputation as one of the most advanced players around.
Fronting a band for his debut recording under his own name, Stacey had to bring that knack for improvisation to the fore. Alongside his regular band of Oscar Ogden (drums), Tom Driessler (bass) and Jay Phelps (trumpet), Stacey was joined in the studio for the first time by vocalist Vula Malinga - who has performed with Basement Jaxx and Incognito - and Holland-based Senegalese percussionist Mamour Seck. Together, the group forged four sprawling jams from the white heat of the direct-to-disc recording process.
As an agile and highly adaptive performer and composer, Stacey allowed the new line-up to shape the sound in unexpected ways. What began as a Herbie Hancock-era Headhunters instrumental tip erred instead towards old school jazz scat in places, ethereal RnB and Kamasi Washington-esque lyrical space-ballads in others.
From the soulful acid jazz sound that Malinga brings to opening track ‘Music is Healing’, to the Afro-Cuban twist on Stacey’s signature ‘Charlie’s Tune’, there is a spontaneity to the recordings that give them a collective urgency true to the essence of the jazz tradition.
“The chance to record in the way that Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and many of my heroes recorded was really appealing,” says Stacey. Drawing on the sounds of classic jazz-funk keyboard players like Chick Corea and George Duke, ‘Rivers of Gondor’ pays tribute to what Stacey calls “the imaginative world of JRR Tolkien”, with all its dark and wistful folk-inspired turns. A staple of Stacey’s live sets, it is joined on the B-Side by ‘Mamour’s Tune’, which was written and recorded on the day and foregrounds the astonishing rhythmic and melodic character of Marmour Seck’s playing.
As Stacey explains: “The fact we only spent one-and-a-half days recording actually made it more fun, as it meant we played in a more intense, focused way.”
In fact, as a touring live musician, Stacey relished the opportunity to record with the same levels of jeopardy. “I liked the idea of the spontaneity of creating something with one opportunity only to get it right,” he explains. “I also liked the idea of non-judgement that leaving stuff intact lends itself to. Whatever we played on the day is what we ended up using and therefore is neither right nor wrong, it just is.” Stacey is the not the first young UK jazz musician to take on the direct-to-disc recording process at Night Dreamer, and joins the likes of Emma-Jean Thackray, Sarathy Korwar and Maisha, who have all cut equally exploratory records for the label. A riot of collaborative improvisation and acrobatic syncopation, Stacey’s Night Dreamer Session captures a singular coming together of musicians from across the jazz world, performing at the peak of their creative powers.
A1. Dawn Chorus
A2. Music Is Healing
A3. Charlie’s Tune
B1. Rivers Of Gondor
B2. Mamour's Tune