Skip to main content

'I was intrigued by Bitches Brew rawness, abruptness, tightness and looseness’

CHRIS SEARLE speaks with trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe

IN THE final lines of her sleeve poem of her debut album, Right Here, Right Now, the young trumpeter from Boston, Lincolnshire, Charlotte Keeffe writes: “Right here, right now / Breathe / Creative freedom for all!”

It is a telling message, burning from the lips of her own hornplay, whether as soloist, in a duo, quartet in a conduction setting with a large improvising ensemble — all formats are erupting from the sonic power of her album.

“Both my amazing parents are retired primary schoolteachers, always supportive of my music-making,” she told me. “My mum loves singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Joan Armatrading and my dad adores a wide range of music, more on the instrumental side.

“My grandma on my mum’s side introduced me to powerful classical orchestral music. Hearing those yearning, swooping strings pulled on my heartstrings. My grandparents on my dad’s side were more into swinging jazz. I was hooked! Jazz moved me in every way. I became fascinated how jazz musicians had these unique musical conversations that really captured their individual creativity.

“I was happiest when I was listening to happy music. Freedom! The music seemed to come from something, be going somewhere and at the same time magically unfolding right in the moment. I knew that brass instruments played a big role in that jazz feeling — so much so that all I wanted for my tenth birthday was a trumpet!

“At secondary school I joined the Bourne Abbey Church Choir to develop my musicianship. On a choir trip to London we went into a record shop and I vividly remember scraping the money together in my coat pocket to buy Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. I was completely captivated by the sleeve artwork. As soon as I got home I listened to it and was intrigued by its rawness, eeriness, abruptness, tightness and looseness — the seeds were sown!”

I asked Charlotte how she had developed her astonishing breathy, rasping vibrato sound. Listening to her blood red notes when I first heard her live at Cafe Oto, playing in an all-woman horn front line with trombonist Sarah Gail Brand and tenor saxophonist Rachel Musson, I felt overwhelmed.

Sometimes she has the snarling beauty of Miles, the intense sonic undercurrents of Roy Eldridge — and her power also reminded me of the fiery New Orleans trumpeter Kid Thomas Valentine when I heard him at the 100 Club 50 years ago. You can hear all these elements in the different formats of Right Here, Right Now.

“To me the trumpet is such an evocative vocal and percussive instrument. I’m so in love with it! Sound is everything, it’s of course what people hear and notice first. It blows my mind that each sound I make on my trumpet has its own unique position and the difference between these positions (sounds) is so subtle.

“I love the feeling of the notes surfing on the air! Practising is an intense and meditative process for me. I’m currently focused as being as relaxed as possible when I play and practise, passionately blowing everything through the small hole in the mouthpiece can really feel intense for me!

“Trumpet notes have become moving, colourful shapes in my mind’s eye, like a graphic score, particularly when I’m playing freely, experimentally and abstractly.

“I’ve become obsessed with exploring the space in these shapes/sounds; playing them this way, that way, upwards, sideways, downwards, diagonally, backwards — desperately getting inside the sound and pulling it around.

“My trumpet and flugelhorn have become my sound (paint) brushes. I can’t get enough of exploring what seems like endless possibilities through improvising, composing and conduction.”

And what about the spirit of co-operation and community of playing with like-minded musicians?

“It’s beautifully connecting and super-inspiring! I often see and feel different elements depending on who I’m playing with. For instance when I’m in a duo with trumpeter Phil Minton, I feel I’m having the best time sky-diving (air)! Or when I play in a duo with Rachel Musson it’s like I’m floating in glorious ocean (water).”

Get hold of Right Here, Right Now and hear directly for yourself Charlotte’s endless quest for innovation and the soundscape of freedom. Golden trumpeter Lee Morgan (1932-72) prophesied in the title of his greatest album A Search for the New Land. Charlotte is finding it with her every note.
    
Right Here, Right Now is released by Discus Music.

OWNED BY OUR READERS

We're a reader-owned co-operative, which means you can become part of the paper too by buying shares in the People’s Press Printing Society.

 

 

Become a supporter

Fighting fund

You've Raised:£ 6,330
We need:£ 11,670
16 Days remaining
Donate today