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Karen took up the tenor saxophone whilst studying composition at the Royal Northern College of Music. A friend introduced her to a recording of Dexter Gordon and she was instantly hooked, quickly joining the college jazz band and finding regular work in a busy soul band based in Liverpool. Since relocating to London in 1999 Karen has become a busy freelance musician working alongside many top class British and American musicians such as Scott Hamilton, Sir John Dankworth, Cleo laine, Danny Moss, Alan Barnes, Barbara Lea, Dick Sudhalter, Mark Nightingale and Ellyn Rucker
Twice winner of the British Jazz Awards Saxophone category, she is perhaps best known for her work with the Humphrey Lyttleton band with whom she toured and recorded for more than 3 years. Equally at home on tenor or baritone sax she is currently working and recording with her latest quartet which features one of the UK’s finest pianists, Nikki Iles. Classic straight ahead Jazz. “..a class A player” Humphrey Lyttleton; “Her sound is warm and full, her improvised lines bold and clear, and her compositions full of surprises. Her style, I suppose, would come under the heading of ‘modern mainstream’, but that doesn’t do justice to her originality of approach.” Observer; “..a star in the making” Jazz Journal International. She has toured internationally including performances at the Ginza Festival, Tokyo and the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
Karen Sharp’s return visit showed that she is undoubtedly one of the U.K’s best tenor players and together with one of the finest trios that the East of England has produced for many a year and accompanied by our resident songbird – Larraine Odell.
Apart from Karen, the personnel were:
Roger Odell – Drums
Roger was one of the founder members and drummer with the jazz-funk group Shakatak and the forerunner band Tracks. Roger has toured internationally and recorded numerous CDs, which he continues to do on a regular basis to this day. Apart from a great power drummer he is also a prestigious arranger.
Steve Cook – Double Bass
Steve has a wonderful rounded tone with great clarity. He has played with Mike Westbrook, Mike Kilpatrick’s Duke Ellington Orchestra, Barbara Thompson, Soft Machine, Seventh Wave and Gil Evans big band at Ronnie Scotts
Simon Brown – Piano
A highly respected and popular jazz pianist who is equally known for his arranging skills. He is always in demand to play many gigs with other bands when he is not teaching jazz piano or playing with the Jazznights Trio
Larraine Odell – Vocals
Beginning her professional singing career with the group CMU with whom she recorded two albums, Larraine performed at numerous venues throughout the UK and Europe, including the Purcell Room, RFH, Boxford Fleece & Ronnie Scott’s.Larraine possesses a unique smouldering tonal quality and a subtle jazz phrasing style that has elicited great praise from two of her own vocal mentors, Mark Murphy and Sheila Jordan. “A sensitive singer who exudes a fine-honed jazz sensibility with every phrase”
Larraine sang for us:
1. I Could Write a Book (1940 with Music by Richard Rodgers and Lyrics by Lorenz Hart). This sung at a medium tempo with solos from Roger, Steve and Simon.
2. Out Of This World with Music by Harold Arlen and Lyrics from Johnny Mercer. (It was introduced in the film Out of This World (1945) by Bing Crosby dubbing in for the voice of the main character played by Eddie Bracken.) This was played at a slow to medium tempo and showed off Larraine’s lovely and mellow mellifluous style for this type of song.
3. The 1937 Where or When – music from the pen of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart which was at a medium tempo with solos from Simon Brown and Steve Cook
4. The1955 Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most (Music by Thomas J Wolf Jr and Lyrics by Frances Landesman came next. This song was Frances’s exploration of T. S. Eliot’s "April is the cruellest month…" This was sung beautifully and sensitively by Larraine in 3/4 waltz time – another great arrangement by Roger Odell month…" This was sung beautifully and sensitively by Larraine – another great arrangement by Roger Odell. The writers favourite number of Larraine’s set.
5. That’s All (1952) Words and Music from Bob Haymes and Alan Brandt.( Nat “King” Cole introduced the song in 1953, and although his was a popular version it did not make the top 20 songs that year. It was Bobby Darin’s 1959 album That’s All that put the song on the musical map). Unusually, this was sung at an up-tempo rate with a power drive from the trio. A great finale to Larraine’s set.
Karen Sharp opened her first set with:
6. medium to up-tempo B Flat Blues with solos from Simon Brown and Steve Cook with 4 bar trades played out between Simon, Karen and Roger Odell on the drums.
7. Bright Moments composed by Roland Kirk from his 1973 album of the same name played at a medium to up-tempo rate. Karen’s first solo even sounded as though it could have been Roland Kirk – although Karen just played the tenor of course without playing the other 3 or 4 instruments at the same time!
8. We’ll Be Together Again composed by Carl Fischer in 1945. Many jazz musicians have recorded “We’ll Be Together Again,” the title cut of an album from guitarist Pat Martino. The Adderley brothers, Cannonball and Nat recorded it as well. Apart from many vocalists as it was originally brought to the public attention by the Frankie Laine Version. This had a slow and very melodic intro with just Karen and Simon . This was a great example of Karen’s flexibility and control of the tenor. An ending to her first set which just made the audience want more immediately!
Following the interval and the Jazznights raffle of 3 jazz CDs and a bottle of wine, Karen opened her second set with:
9. Cole Porter’s 1938 Get Out Of Town at a medium to fast tempo with Karen playing extremely lyrically and involving trades with Roger, Simon and Steve who also excelled with the use of his sliding ;left hand on the bass.
10. Johnny Green’s 1930 Body And Soul – surly one of, if the not the most played of all the Jazz standards. Karen’s version was so sensitive and melodic as well as soulful – a beautiful and very significant version – superb
11. Sail Away is a composition and album by jazz trumpeter and composer Tom Harrell, which was originally recorded by him in 1989. a lovely medium tempo number featuring Simon Brown, Steve Cook either side of a superlative solo from Karen.
12. Love Is A Many Splendored Thing with music by Sammy Fain which is featured on Karen’s new CD "Spirit". A Beautiful medium tempo number featured an extended solo from Roger Odell.
13. Cherokee (Indian Love Song). Although written by Ray Noble in 1938, it wasn’t really considered a vehicle for jazz improvisation until Charlie Parker’s arrival in New York in the early 1940’s when it was picked up by one jazz musician after another, and today it is affectionately referred to as a jazz warhorse. This was played as a very fast swing number with great interplay between Karen and Roger.
14. Jimmy Rowles 1960’s Looking Back was an unusually slow, lyrical and tender offering from Karen Sharp and was a great climax to a wonderful gig – one to be remembered.
Phil Collins remarked on a BBC Radio 2 show "….an extraordinary talent." – IMHO quite a litotes as she is a superb master of the tenor saxophone and as mentioned, at the top of the tree in U.K jazz..
For further information and future gigs go to http://www.jazz-nights.com