Feature/Interview

Karen Sharp (new album 7 Feb; 606 Club launch 15 Feb)

Saxophonist/composer Karen Sharp has a new album Another Place with a recently-formed trio featuring Simon Thorpe on bass and Colin Oxley on guitar. Release date is 7 February and the album launch is at the 606 Club on Saturday 15 February. Laura Thorne(*) found out more: 

Karen Sharp in 2011. Photo by Melody McLaren

LondonJazz News: How did you get to know Simon Thorpe and Colin Oxley and how did the trio start?

Karen Sharp: I have worked with Simon and Colin in a wide variety of contexts over many years so I know their playing and of course we know each other socially from being on the road together. During 2019 we found ourselves playing two concert dates as a trio for the first time. I’ve always loved the trio format and felt I could really be myself working with Simon and Colin who play with great sensitivity and invention. We share a passion for great melodies and I feel our album reflects group invention and exploration – a band of three equal parts.

LJN: Another Place is also a name of a song on the album, written by Simon. Was there a particular reason why you chose it for the name of the record as well?

KS: Actually I chose to use one of Simon’s tunes as the title because people wouldn’t know it, so hopefully would have fewer preconceptions about the album! I also love that fact that we have recorded some originals – Simon’s tunes are great and should be played.

LJN: Speaking of titles, you wrote the tune My Blue Jacket, which appears on the new record, for Humphrey Lyttelton, with whom you famously recorded and toured for four years. What is the story behind that title?

KS: I will always be grateful to Humph for encouraging me to write for the band, it was a great way to learn how to write for such a line-up and I was fortunate that Humph frequently included my arrangements in concert programmes. Regarding the story behind ‘My Blue Jacket’, I’m sorry to report that there isn’t one! I can only say that I am bad with titles and at the time of writing I was enjoying wearing a particular blue jacket made of corduroy – sadly long since disappeared and probably too small anyway.

LJN: What led to you choosing saxophones as your main instruments?

KS:  I was in my early-20s when I started playing the tenor sax having played piano and clarinet from the age of eight. I was initially drawn to the strength of sound and style of Dexter Gordon and from that point I listened to an ever increasing number of jazz players of all instruments – the greats as well as more contemporary performers. I have a deep respect and love of the music of pioneers such as Lester Young, Hawkins, Ellington and of course Louis Armstrong, all of whom had a unique voice and contributed so much in laying the foundations of jazz as a new art form.

L-R: Karen Sharp, Colin Oxley, Simon Thorpe

LJN: You were a nominee in the Rising Star category of the US Downbeat Critics Poll for baritone sax in both 2018 and 2019. It’s not an instrument we hear that often (or often enough). What about it appeals specifically to you?

KS: I was asked to get a baritone when joining Humph’s band and wasn’t keen on the idea, but after a while I got used to it and slowly began to enjoy it as much as the tenor. The baritone is a lot of fun to play both as a solo instrument and as the ‘bottom end’ in a larger ensemble. It is also very challenging and I feel I am only just getting to grips with the basics, trying to do justice to the huge dynamic and expressive qualities available is a constant battle! I also find doubling with the tenor has brings other challenges but I like to use both on gigs for the change in colour and texture.

(*) Laura Thorne is the 606 Club’s Marketing Manager

LINKS: Karen Sharp’s website

606 Launch, 15 February

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