The title of this EP is inspired by the autobiography of the saxophonist Dick Heckstall Smith, in which he describes being on stage as “The Safest Place in the World”.
Esther Bennett: Vocals
Terence Collie: Piano, Synth Bass (Track 2), Keyboards
Richard Sadler: Double Bass
Sophie Alloway: Drums
Duncan Lamont Jnr: Flute, Tenor Saxophone (Track 4), Soprano Saxophone (Track 5)
Hannah Horton: Baritone Saxophone (Track 2), Tenor Saxophone (Track 3)
Matt Hodge: Percussion
One of the jazz scene’s most experienced, highly respected and widely loved vocalists, juxtaposing sensitivity with a sparky sense of humour. Her song delivery leaves audiences utterly compelled.
"Vocalist Esther Bennett's virtues include a smokily appealing lower register and a winning sense of humour” - Jazz Wise Magazine
Terence Collie has developed enormous respect as a jazz pianist able to cross many styles while retaining a strong personal identity. A true renaissance man and polymath consistently working as a musician, promoter and audio/video producer.
“Furious pulsing piano from the filigree of Terence Collie” - Alban Low, Art Of Jazz
“played with clarity and subtlety” - Sebastian Scotney, London Jazz News
It’s March 2020 and the government announce a national lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has gripped much of the world. What’s a singer to do? Write of course! What is a singer without the necessary accompanying skills with which to write the harmonies of a song to do? Well, to begin with, I thought it an ideal time to do what every self-respecting jazz singer should do at some point in their career and that is to write a contrafact – a musical composition built using the chord progression of a pre-existing song, but with a new melody and arrangement.
I chose two well known jazz standards; All of Me written by Gerald Marks & Seymour Simons and Well You Needn’t written by Thelonious Monk, upon which to paint new stories. Only one of these is on the EP (the Monk composition now entitled Yellow Label Stuff) but I had an enormous amount of fun working on both. A lengthy and complicated, possibly a bit too fussy and clever process, but I was really pleased with the results. Armed with the knowledge that songwriting possibilities were now endless due to the thousands of songs available to me from “The American Songbook” alone, I would have carried on in the same vein, were it not for one day coming across a recording of an instrumental composition, written and performed by my good friend and colleague, pianist Terence Collie – a beautiful composition in 5/4 entitled End of Summer.
I knew immediately that I wanted to write lyrics to this piece. Terence was happy for me to do so and suggested that we then record the new song. I told him that I had a few more original tunes – those that I’d just written, another in the pipeline and a couple that I’d written with other musicians over ten years ago, to which he responded “then why don’t we do an EP?”
And here we are….
As experienced performers, we both know and have worked with some of the best musicians in the UK and in Europe. It wasn’t difficult, therefore, to select a band who would bring these compositions to their most full and beautiful life.
We chose the traditional jazz trio format with the addition of percussion, saxes and flute to give just the right flavours that the swing, bossa, funk, latin and 5/4 grooves required. The tracks were recorded individually and remotely by each musician, as were the vocals. Terence Collie mixed, engineered and produced the album adding subtle vintage synth pads for textures on the opening two songs which add to giving the album a very distinctive and personal sound.
Here are the songs and a description of each:
1. End of Summer
Composed by Terence Collie Lyrics by Esther Bennett
In the cycle of life, the seasons change from summer to autumn and we approach the September of our years. We reflect and lament upon the tapestry we have woven of our life so far, but then cast away wasted tears and past regrets. These then fall, like golden leaves from the trees, to fade like life’s embers, leaving only love behind.
2. Wandering Lost
Music composed by Bruno D’Ambra & Esther Bennett Lyrics by Esther Bennett
My love of the British rare groove and acid jazz scene of the late 80s & early 90s influenced the musical composition of this song. The lyrics speak of spring, fertility and youth. The young lover searches for commitment and a true heart, a soul mate and a possible life time partner; a quest that is often not compatible with the freeness of spirit that this music evokes.
3. Please (Save Me)
Music composed by Jeremy Stacey & Esther Bennett Lyrics by Esther Bennett
I wrote this in my 30s when I’d reached a crossroads in my life where I faced two possible choices; either I find a suitable partner, start a family and settle into the (apparent) safe haven of some kind of “normality”, or I continue to enjoy the roller coaster journey of the free spirited Bohemian artist. (It’s rare that anyone can do both). I chose to do the latter.
The introductory bars of this song are stolen almost entirely from those of Wayne Shorter’s Beauty & the Beast, though you wouldn’t recognise them in their new home.
4. Yellow Label Stuff
A contrafact written by Esther Bennett over the changes of Well You Needn’t by Thelonious Monk, aka The Pandemic Song (Ode to Covid 19)
How could we have coped without the discounted food stuff that supermarkets have on offer? All clearly marked with that distinctive yellow sticker, many a meal can be created around whatever produce has been selected to be cleared off the shelves by the end of that day. (There is a cheeky ambiguity in the lyrics in that they could also refer to the certain habits and indulgences of our jazz heroes of the not too distant past.)
5. Forever Now (Ode to Duncan)
Words and music inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach and Andrew Pooley
I wrote this in tribute to the late jazz musician and composer Duncan Lamont Snr, who inspired me to be “in the moment” and to live “in the now”. The composition is modal in its harmony and the melody is derived from a section of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. This piece is also intended to reflect the mood and feel of the great John Coltrane.
We hope that you enjoy this little journey and that you will take these songs into your heart and mind and that they might resonate somewhere within your own life and soul.
Special thanks to:
Janet McCunn of Mood Indigo Events
Riverside Arts Centre, Sunbury on Thames
Steve Rubie at the 606
Paul Pace at The Spice of Life and Ronnie Scotts Sainsbury’s, Tesco and to my family.