The NJE - Afloat album review

The progressive jazz spirit lives in audacious East End trio The NJE

The NJE - Afloat album artwork

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Formed in 2010 by multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards, double bassist Mark Bedford and drummer Simon Charterton, The NJE (Near Jazz Experience) operate as a sax-led trio but, thanks to their innate grasp of the jazz impulse and flagrant disregard for musical boxes, often chart genuinely new ground on their first LP.

Maybe unbelievably, the East End trio’s pedigree stretches back to the Higsons and Madness but there’s little traditionally song-based about excursions such as St Leonard’s Suite, which starts as a spectral pulse before Theme From Shaft bass and hi-hat bring in 70s Roland Kirk-style prog jazz double sax motifs and rampant electronic skulduggery. Charterton’s beats often recall the polyrhythmic funk of Can, whose open-minded attitude also coats Diamonds For Breakfast, while the title track exhales into a languid after hours reverie. The 12-minute St Mary’s Suite rides in on radio static before bending into a lowdown funk beast with meaty horn riffs and crowd noise completing its 60s New York jazz loft ambience. The trio’s version of Hendrix’s Voodoo Child (Slight Return) has to be heard to be believed. Wherever he is, Jimi would be pleased to see the prog jazz interface he pioneered in such rude, rambunctious health.

Kris Needs

Kris Needs is a British journalist and author, known for writings on music from the 1970s onwards. Previously secretary of the Mott The Hoople fan club, he became editor of ZigZag in 1977 and has written biographies of stars including Primal Scream, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards. He's also written for MOJO, Record Collector, Classic Rock, Prog, Electronic Sound, Vive Le Rock and Shindig!