Organ Thing of The Day: Something rather good brewing here, Ben Marc has released something rather special in the shape of his “Breathe Suite EP”. Out this week via Innovative Leisure, the EP features British Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, jazz-rapper Rarely Always and former Attica Blues singer Midnighttroba. I don’t know what is and isn’t jazz, it all just sounds like exciting music to me, there’s all kinds of things in the fine blend. There is only the one track from the EP available t ohear right now, so we can’t really say anything about the whole EP but the nsurely this one track is more tha nenough to whet?
“Ben Marc realised music was going to be his life. He studied classical double bass at Trinity College London. He duly went on to work with artists, including Macy Grey, Amy Winehouse, Dizzee Rascal, the Charles Mingus Big Band, Jimmy Cliff and created a film score with Radiohead. He embarked on his own solo project. It is clear that he is merely scratching the surface of his ambitions just now”
“It’s a rare talent that can link Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, Ethio-jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke, Afrofuturists Sun Ra Arkestra and grime legend Dizzee Rascal, but Ben Marc has long blurred musical worlds and criss-crossed boundaries. On double and bass guitar, he flits between jazz, classical and electronic music, whether playing on Greenwood’s award-winning score for the film The Master or touring with Mulatu for over 10 years, as well as working with the likes of Matthew Herbert & Charles Mingus.
But as a producer and multi-instrumentalist at the leading edge of the UK jazz scene, Ben Marc is now stepping into the spotlight with his debut solo project that recalls the likes of spiritual jazz legends Alice Coltrane & Pharoah Sanders”.
More info via Bandcamp
The press release….
Already at the leading edge of the UK jazz scene, producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Marc steps into the spotlight with his ‘Breathe Suite’ EP, out today via LA imprint Innovative Leisure. The opening track ‘Breathe Suite A’ sees a child choir chant “I’ll raise my voice / you raise your hand / I’ll hold the truth / Until you understand” over gossamer harp and swirling cymbals, a potent address to injustice that recalls Alice Coltrane and LA-based composer Miguel Atwood Ferguson. The EP and was nearly finished during lockdown when the death of George Floyd shook the world. As a result, Marc and vocalist Midnight Roba steered the release in a more contemplative direction. He had this to say on the video for lead track ‘Breathe Suite B’ feat. Rarelyalways and Shabaka Hutchings:
“We wanted to make something meditative to help people through this traumatic time. The video shows a day in a life of a young black girl. At the start of the film it shows her struggles, a panic, then a sense of hiding and running away from daily problems. As the film develops it progresses into this girl finding peace, using contemplation and individual thought processes. The later part of the film, especially in the club, it brings together a sense of collective thoughts, struggles, happiness and up-rising.” Ben Marc
Marc, the alias of Neil Charles, has quite the musical pedigree. He grew up splitting his time between Birmingham and Carriacou in the Caribbean: at school in the English city, he started taking classical music lessons aged 10, while back on the island, he got into guitar thanks to the street performers who’d play soca music at family events and with whom he ended up playing as a young boy, going from house to house. At home, his musical upbringing was just as varied. “My dad would be playing Bob Marley and my mum would be playing Blondie. That and classical music was normal.”
After touring the world in school orchestras, Marc moved to London to take classical double bass at the prestigious Trinity College of Music, where Fela Kuti once studied, under the tutelage of double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku. “I knew I had to come to London to study with her,” he says. “There weren’t many people who looked like me in classical music. I got stopped by the police all the time in central London, on my way to Trinity.” But despite his conservatoire training, he was never able to professionally puncture the stuffy world of orchestras. “I stopped playing double bass for four years because no one was employing people like me,” he says. “I knew I was good but I wasn’t even getting auditions. Eventually, I stopped practising.”
It wasn’t until a chance meeting in Brixton with Gary Crosby, linchpin of Tomorrow’s Warriors – the crucial London jazz educators that connect the UK new wave luminaries, from Nubya Garcia to Moses Boyd – that the possibility of jazz shone like a beacon. “He was Black and holding a double bass, so I went up to him on the street and tapped him on the shoulder to find out what he was doing,” says Marc. It was the start of a game-changing journey that would see him play first with smart jazz group Empirical and then led him to forming the free-jazz trio Zed-U, alongside Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming) and drummer Tom Skinner. With Zed-U, Marc’s passion for electronic music began to bubble up. He and Hutchings would frequent London nightclubs together, soaking in the sounds of garage, broken beat and drum’n’bass at iconic former spots such as The End and Plastic People. He even took Hutchings to his first house and techno night, where DJs like Sven Vath and Ricardo Villolobos would man the decks – influences that led Marc to produce a house EP for the London-based label Atjazz. His work with other key figures has been building up, too: last year, he joined keysman Ashley Henry on the latter’s track ‘The Mighty’, which Marc wrote and produced.
In his new music, Ben Marc has unified these influences into a sublime whole. Now signed to LA’s Innovative Leisure, he’s found a home alongside similarly future-thinking artists like Badbadnotgood, Nosaj Thing, Rarelyalways and Jimmy Edgar. ‘Breathe Suite’ a lustrous EP of sweeping strings, rippling piano and meditative vocals: two suites that show off Marc’s gift for composing and arranging, bookended by two stirring improvisations.