Charlotte Glasson Interview
This month Charlotte Glasson releases a new album of music and performs in Shoreham and Love Supreme Festival. She spoke to SJM editor Charlie Anderson.
Eclectic is a good word to describe Charlotte Glasson. She works on a mix of projects, performs a wide range of music and plays an impressive selection of instruments (including the flute, musical saw, violin and of course the saxophone). Her new album, Robots, embraces this eclectic approach.
“My little boy is obsessed with robots, but actually it doesn’t sound like robot music or electronic music at all”. The title for the album actually came from a holiday she took with her son and her partner to South Africa last year. “The word ‘robots’ is written on the tarmac as you’re driving along. So I saw it and thought ‘what the hell’s going on?’ and someone said ‘that’s what we call traffic lights’. This album is really influenced by that trip. There’s lots of African sounds, the rhythms and the inspiration that hit me when I was there, for most of it. There are a few older tunes that I hadn’t yet recorded. But they seemed to slot in nicely so it’s all quite eclectic.”
The new album features a number of musicians that Charlotte has worked with before, including guitarist Chris Spedding, bassist Mick Hutton, drummer Sam Glasson and trombonist Mark Bassey, who has written a tune for the album called Rhumbolero “based around Chick Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba. He’s combined rhumba and bolero for the title, as he would do.”
New to the group is Chris Kibble, who Charlotte describes as “a fantastic latin piano player, who I used to play with in London years ago”. Not surprisingly she performs on a number of different instruments: “penny whistle, saxophone, flutes, saw, violin, percussion and probably a bit more as well”.
Choosing a favourite track from the album is a difficult choice. “I like all of them in their own little way. Robots, the title track, I like. Then there’s Twilight. The last couple of albums that I’ve made over the last 10 years, have been without a piano. They’ve been guitar-orientated, and tuba instead of a double bass. So this is the first one with double bass all the way through it, and having piano there as well. The sound has changed quite a lot but it’s still eclectic. It’s more traditional quartet sounding, even though they’re not playing that kind of music. Twilight is more ECM/Keith Jarrett I suppose, which I didn’t feel was possible when I was doing it with tuba and guitar.
The June tour takes in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and 1000 Trades, the new home of Birmingham Jazz Club, before they perform at the Ropetackle in Shoreham on 28th June and Love Supreme Festival on 30th June. “It’s getting hard to make a living playing jazz in the UK because after touring-support has gone from Jazz Services it’s really difficult. And it’s just so expensive taking a five-piece band on the road, but you’ve got to do these things. I want to do it so I’m gonna do it.”
As Charlotte says, “It’s really rare for me to play in Brighton or the surrounding areas. I played a bit in Shoreham last year with my band, and I played a bit in Brighton but not in my band with my own material. It’s quite different to what I do. I play at the Seven Stars and I play a lot with Harry’s Tricks, Mike the Mic, playing early swing. That’s brought itself on to the album because I do a little cover version of I’ll See You In My Dreams. That’s a nice little tune. That’s the only cover, the rest are all original.”
In terms of other projects, Charlotte is performing with a range of different artists. “I’m working a bit with Camille O’Sullivan who is an Irish singer who sings a lot of David Bowie and Jacques Brel tunes and I’m there as a multi-instrumentalist, with violin and saxophone. I’ve got a saxophone quartet with Philippe Guyard and we played at the Brighton Festival and then loads of other bits like Brighton Beach Boys but nothing jazzy I suppose. I like to play all sorts of music. Genres don’t do it for me. They’re too restrictive.”
In keeping with this open-minded approach, Charlotte has been doing recording sessions for the new Danger Mouse TV series and playing with Andy Mackay, the sax player with Roxy Music. “He’s got a gig in the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the end of November so we’ve just been recording with him up in London. It’s quite an honour to be asked to play saxophone on his album seeing as he’s a saxophone player. That will be coming out in the run up to his gig in November.”
“I had some gigs with Herbie Flowers at the Spiegeltent which have been good. In fact, a guy came to see me at a gig with Herbie and he runs some kind of library of samples for people to use. I’m not interested in using it myself but he wanted me to do a flute sampler, so I did 200 samples for a thing called Noizz. I’ve done lots of crazy little flute things and it’s selling well. I’ve just done a baritone saxophone one too.”
Charlotte is also curating Sunday in the Park with Jazz at the Brighton Open Air Theatre this summer. “I’ve booked the Paul Richards Trio and Sussex Jazz Orchestra, and I’m going to be playing a little solo set on different instruments and a looper. If I get a chance I’d like to make a little solo EP. There was a solo tune on my last album but I’ll write a few more and do a 20 minute set when the band changes over. That’s on Sunday 12th August.”
In terms of doing things outside of music, travelling is her favourite. “I like a bit of gardening but I love travelling. That’s my main thing. If I get the chance I will travel. I’ve just been to Australia with the Lost and Found Orchestra. I do a lot of travelling so that’s good. Wherever I’ve got a gig I try to combine it with something afterward. South Africa is one place where I’d never been offered a gig so I thought ‘right, let’s do it’. It’s never been on my list of places to go; I’d rather go to Asia or traveling in a camper van around America, Canada or Japan. I’ve never been to Japan so I’d like to go there.”
“South Africa was fabulous. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Cape Town was brilliant. I could have spent a week in Cape Town and still not seen everything. We stayed in a little hut on the beach in Cape Town and then hired a camper van for two weeks to travel around. The distances are quite small, it’s safe and there’s no malaria there. They all drive on the left and the roads are really good. And it’s in the wine region! Wine is so cheap, the food is brilliant. But it still feels like it’s black and white. There’s a problem there. People don’t want to mix and I find that a bit difficult but then as a tourist you don’t get to see that so much. We saw some great wildlife but didn’t see any live music which was a shame. There didn’t seem to be that much happening. We were slightly out of season but heard loads on the radio. I’d love to go back and do some more but I’d also like to go somewhere that I’ve never been. There’s so much to do and not enough time!”
Charlotte Glasson performs at Love Supreme Festival on 30th June, 2018.
The album Robots is out in June on Surrey Street Records.
(Photo by Lisa Wormsley)