Already at the leading edge of the UK jazz scene, producer and multi-instrumentalist Ben Marc recently stepped into the spotlight with his lustrous and contemplative ‘Breathe Suite’ EP. Released in September and praised by the likes of NPR, The Wire and The Guardian, its sweeping strings, rippling piano and meditative vocals showed off Marc’s undeniable gift for composing and arranging. 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, with the BLM ‘Breathe Suite B’ depicting struggle, panic and ultimately peace. New single ‘Way We Are’ offers a tantalising taster of what’s to come, and with an upcoming full-length album muted for release in spring, Marc has this to say on it:
"‘Way we are’ reflects on the way we live, the way we think and the way we grow. It’s the first track from my upcoming record and it came about while I was questioning what type of person or musician I am." 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. 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. 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. ‘Way We Are’ is a sign of things to come from an artist clearly at the top of his game.
Read more at Clash: https://www.clashmusic.com/news/ben-marcs-way-we-are-is-absorbing-return