Sophie Wales catches up with multi-instrumentalist duo Charlie + Jake, from Bristol.

We’ve been checking-in with jazz artists and musicians throughout the South to see how their lockdown experience has been.

What was your first ever encounter with jazz?

Jake: Listening to Keith Jarrett’s album of the Köln Concert performance at a very young age. It was my parents’ favourite album and with my Mum being a piano teacher, I was subsequently inspired to improvise on the piano myself. Much later my interest in jazz was reignited by a weekend spent volunteering at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and being engrossed in a huge variety of new jazz artists and bands that left me hungry for more! I’ve since been back three more times to volunteer at the festival and absorb all the wonderful music on offer.

Charlie: I was told really early on that ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ was No.1 on the day my Dad was born, so I remember listening to that on his birthday. I then remember having quite a big Jamie Cullum obsession and meeting him at a gig at Bath Abbey at age 17. I was very worried about how to say he has been an inspiration to me, and ended up blurting out “I’m a jazz singer and it’s all your fault!” He was quite taken aback, and then apologised! It wasn’t quite what I meant. Since then, much like Jake, Cheltenham Jazz Festival has been my way to keep up with plenty of new and exciting jazz each year!

Name a track you wish you’d written.

‘It Don’t Matter’ by Jacob Collier. It simply oozes happiness and joy in every little moment of the song! A gorgeously simple melody and lyrics combined with lush harmonies and wonderful vocal lines. It’s so clear that Jacob had oodles of fun whilst creating this tune, and it continues to inspire us in our own music making too. As well as this, we also wish we’d written every song Lianne La Havas has ever written! Her latest album is just beautiful and her voice is pure gold.

Who have you been listening to while in lockdown?

Dominique Fils-Aimé and her most recent album ‘Stay Tuned!’. We love her all-pervasive use of voice throughout the album, along with some wonderful instrumentation including percussion made from turning pages in books. We’ve also been listening to Jacob Collier. He’s currently in the process of releasing singles from an upcoming album and sharing the musical universe of sounds within. It’s always fun to follow his releases as he shares behind-the-scenes looks at the production and music writing process through livestreams, and we are always fascinated and inspired by what he does.

Favourite gig you’ve ever been to and why?

We can’t decide on one so here’s two sublime concerts we’ve been to recently:

Mesadorm performing at Circomedia, Bristol. We sang as part of the 60-strong choir, Murmuration, accompanying their set. Hauntingly beautiful pieces with a band that is so in tune with each other and so clearly enjoying every moment of the set just as much as we were in the choir. And to be a part of some of the gorgeous music ourselves was unparalleled.

Bokante at St George’s – an absolute feast of rhythm, groove, funk, melody, solos, harmony, and joyous jamming on stage. We loved to see everyone on stage interacting with smiles and glances as they so thoroughly enjoyed each moment and sat in the groove. To add to that, the immaculate vocals of Malika Tirolien and the impeccable percussion of André Ferrari meant the evening was nothing short of magical musical inspiration.

Any livestream concert recommendations? 

We’ve actually been doing regular livestreams of our own! Is that a cheeky answer? But we’ve also enjoyed Jacob Collier’s (yeah, we know, we talk about him a lot…) spontaneous Instagram livestreams, often collaborating with other musicians. We’re also enjoying the wonderful Tiny Desk series which has continued releasing great performances from artist’s homes throughout lockdown (guess who our favourite one was? That’s right… Jacob Collier!).

What advice do you have for fellow musicians adapting to life in lockdown?

One thing we struggled with at the beginning was putting unnecessary extra pressure on ourselves to use all this supposed “free time”. We soon found that there wasn’t as much time as we had thought as a lot of other aspects of life continued needing attention, so it was important to adjust our goals and expectations. Now a few months into it, we’re glad we’ve been able to stay creative, but it certainly hasn’t been as productive as we dreamed it might be in the first two weeks or so, and that’s okay! We’ve been watching many great videos from YouTubers Adam Neely, Ben Levin and Mary Spender, who have continued to provide huge amounts of inspiration throughout this period of lockdown. We’d particularly recommend Mary’s video which shared tips on creative time management in lockdown and seeking the right kind of feedback on your projects whilst they are in progress.

Have you been working on any new material whilst in lockdown?

A lot of our creative energy has been focused on several regular livestreams which we have kept going throughout lockdown. The main project of ours at the moment is the Echoes and Edges Open Collab: a livestream where we create improvised musical worlds around spoken word performances sent in by poets from all over the world. We listen to their poem once or twice to get an idea of the theme and then create music live on stream using our bespoke live-looping setup, responding to the words and turning the pieces into musical poetry collaborations. It has been perpetually fresh and exciting and has kept us creative and collaborative in a time where we would not otherwise have had many opportunities to work so closely with people. You can check out some of these collaborations over on our YouTube channel or even submit your poetry here.

Our next ‘Catching Up With…’ is with John Law, and will be posted on 12th August. Follow the series on our social media and hear about it directly when you sign up to our mailing list.