Vocalist Gwyneth Herbert (b. Farnham, Surrey, England) and guitarist Will Rutter (b. England) first met at Durham University in the north of England where they were studying music. Discovering a shared interest in jazz and blues, they began playing locally and eventually teamed up as a duo, naming themselves Black Coffee. Herbert’s interest in music developed from her hearing records in her mother’s collection, notably a varied mix of Aretha Franklin, Carol King and Bob Marley. She composed her first song at the age of five and in her early teens recorded a demo of her own songs but did not follow up on an offer of a recording contract. Rutter had grown up in a musical environment owing to his father’s folk band, Arran Pilot. Despite folk music, however, Rutter became interested in jazz, listening avidly to records by Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. Exposure to the rock band, Metallica, prompted him to take up the guitar and he thereafter became a fan of Oasis, Nirvana and Radiohead. As Black Coffee, Herbert and Rutter worked often at venues in the north east of England while still at university. They also played in Amsterdam and Paris until, after graduation, they moved to London where they played in pubs, selling at these locations a self-produced CD. A copy of the CD was given to Peter Wallis of the Pizza Express jazz club who promptly set up a meeting with Dean Street Records. This resulted in a five-track EP that was produced by Ian Shaw. Regular airplay followed and they were soon an up-and-coming attraction on the UK jazz scene.
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