Thursday, December 1, 2011

Coals to Newcastle: The Movie!

Band: The New Mastersounds
Genre: Funk/Jazz
Line-up: Eddie Roberts - Guitars , Simon Allen -  Drums , Peter  Shand  - Bass , Joe Tatton – Hammond Organ/Keys , Rob Lavers – Tenor Sax, Flute .

When I first chanced upon the ‘Coals to Newcastle’ DVD, I was like ‘Whoa! A funk-jazz band from Leeds!’. Now, you see, Leeds exactly isn’t the place where you would expect a funk-jazz band . New York, New Orleans, London … maybe, but Leeds wouldn’t cross your mind. But England’s finest funk-jazz band is from Leeds. In fact, not only Britain’s, but for the funk-jazz scene worldwide . This bunch of 5 guys making music, music that is not from their country  but still being able to make it their own is what ’Coals to Newcastle’ is about .

The documentary starts with the explanation of the impact of Leeds College of Music on the music scene in Leeds . By offering the first Jazz degree in Europe , it attracted many talented players from England and to some extent , worldwide . For those who don’t know , Leeds College of Music is THE college from where many talented players have passed out , including the rock fusion guitarist Tom Quayle(finalist of Guitar Idol 2009) . Since England didn’t offer a non - classical degree before Leeds College of Music , it attracted most of the people interested in Jazz music . And because of this fact , Leeds has a strong Jazz/Funk scene , not recognized as much as New York or London , but pretty strong nevertheless .

Eddie Roberts (formerly 3 Deuces guitarist), is the brainchild behind The New Mastersounds . Simon Allen , who has an unorthodox playing technique(often referred to as the ‘open handed technique’) , was approached by Eddie himself ‘coz he thought that his drum playing was fluid and perfect for funk . Then the documentary progresses to show how they get Peter Shand(amazing bass grooves !); Joe Tatton (according to Eddie , they had trouble finding the ‘right’ keyboard player ‘coz all of them were ‘all over the place’ ! Joe was the perfect fit for their type of music, subtle, yet incredible improviser ). Their camaraderie is very strong , especially among the 2 forts of the rhythm section i.e. Peter & Simon , who are actually best friends . Infact , Simon goes on to say that he would feel comfortable in any band as long as Peter is there with him . These guys know each other so damn well that even if, onstage, any one starts a new riff or a groove , they would follow it tight & perfectly complement each other .

The documentary is a little bit personal too , for example ; Simon explaining why he didn’t wanna have kids before he was successful  , Eddie missing his kids while on tour , Peter’s inspiration to play the bass and Joe’s reluctance to be on tour for a long period . The introduction of Rob Lavers into the band line-up was later on into the band’s existence , which infused new life into their music . Rob’s tasty phrasing of the notes complimented very well with the band , a fact openly said by Simon , who states ‘At first , I didn’t quite understand the reason why Eddie took him in the band , but by the 3rd gig with Rob , I started to get it and I liked it ‘. The band had been playing around in England and Europe for a while , spreading their brand of Funk/Jazz at various Jazz Festivals . The invitation from The House of Blues, New Orleans is their moment of glory . British dudes being invited to America to play American music surprises the group (in a good way , of course !); in the words of Eddie ‘its like sending coals to Newcastle’ and hence, the inspiration for the documentary's title.

Despite of the fact that it cost the band a substantial amount of money to get to the other side of the Atlantic, the group decided to tour New Orleans . A friend of them in New Orleans allows them to stay at her place , eliminating the accommodation problem . New Orleans is depicted in a true light , showing the after effects of the Hurricane Katrina , their colorful culture , the incredible Jazz festival and the warm people present there . Clips from the House of Blues gig are shown , which , according to the band had the best sound . Then , there are the gigs at the Blue Nile ,which have them jamming with a host of talented musicians (Brian Jordan, Adam Deitch, Jonathan Batiste, Ivan Neville).  And there’s the porch gig , THE most EPIC gig in the whole documentary! A gig on the porch of the friend’s house …. people start  dancing to the band playing on the porch . With an introduction by Ready Teddy (comic old man , I say), jamming with Stanton Moore (of Galactic fame) on a track; a dancer (eye candy :P) on stage during one of their tracks , it turns out to be their most fun gig in Orleans . The band’s music have them earning respect from their contemporaries  and praise for their approach of keeping instrumental solos minimal in their music & instead focusing more on the music arrangement.  All this documentary lacks is a live set which, in my opinion, should have been there to complete the circle. A live set accompanied by this documentary would have been satisfying for the music lover who wished to see the band in action for a whole gig, but all in all , me thinks that this is a cool documentary . Right from their time in Leeds to the tour to New Orleans, it’s well documented.

Watch this documentary, if you still believe that there are artists out there who are making music, for the music, not for the money.

Hope to see a live DVD in the future !

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