NJE stands for Near Jazz Experience but I would have to say that this is a fine and full-on modern jazz album.
NJE are Terry Edwards (horns and other instruments), Mark Bedford (basses) and Simon Charterton (percussion) and the album was engineered by Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor.
One of the elements that really appealed to me was the fluency of the music here – they are clearly used to jamming together and like all fine musicians, they have developed an ear for each others twists and turns. Here there is no real ‘lead’ instrument as each of them contributes to both the melody and the rhythm.
Remarkably, much of their history is in the pop and rock arena (Edwards & Charterton were with The Higsons a ways back and then Edwards and Bedford were together in Butterfield 8) and the list of musicians they have cut their teeth with would make any session man beam with joy. Being able to drop names like PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Alex Harvey, Big Star, Ian Dury suggests they know their way around an instrument.
I am strongly struck by Bedfords bass playing – he has the feel for music that belies his origins with Madness and a wonderful sense of the funk in a tune. Edwards has Rhassan Roland Kirk’s technique of blowing two saxes simultaneously (tenor and alto) but unlike most of those who try to make it work, he is mellifluous with both instruments working together. Add to all of that Charterton’s drumming and percussion and you get music that flies and flows.
They feature a remarkable version of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’ but most of the tracks are originals. It isn’t an easy album to review – the music is utterly unique but still has the listener up and dancing to sounds that shouldn’t work together but do.
The music was born out of playing live together and I can’t wait to get the opportunity.