CD review

Karen Sharp Trio – “Another Place”

Karen Sharp Trio – Another Place
(KLS Records – KLS001. CD Review by Graham Spry)

Saxophonist Karen Sharp first made her mark on British jazz as a member of Humphrey Lyttelton’s eight-piece jazz band, then as leader of her own quartet. In more recent times, among her many other playing contexts, her frequent work in a quartet with Nikki Iles, Dave Green and Steve Brown stands out. This group celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.

Another Place finds her in a new, small-scale setting with guitar and bass, and it is a delightful,  or as the press release has it, ‘relaxed and intimate’ album. The Karen Sharp Trio formed as the result of a couple of successful dates that Sharp had performed with Colin Oxley (electric guitar) and Simon Thorpe (double bass). All are accomplished as musicians and there are compositions by both Sharp and Thorpe on the album.

Like the best recordings, the repertoire very much goes together with the character and strengths of the musicians. Oxley has a delightful guitar sound reminiscent of Jim Hall’s recordings with Bill Evans. It may be no coincidence, therefore, that two of the songs, Funkallero and Peau Douce, have been most memorably recorded by Evans.

Thorpe is more than just a rhythm accompanist. His non-intrusive double bass anchors well the contrasting timbres of Oxley’s electric guitar and Sharp’s mostly baritone sax. Thorpe is also a composer and his three compositions, Another Place, October and To Billy and TM, fit well with the rest of the repertoire. In fact, on the strength of this album, Thorpe is a composer worth listening out for. Another Place is a worthy title track and Thorpe’s tribute to Billy Strayhorn and Thelonious Monk, To Billy and TM, may well be my favourite song on the album.

As leader of the trio, Sharp is impressive throughout. Although she plays the tenor as well as the baritone sax, she is particularly comfortable playing at a lower pitch that perfectly suits the album’s intimate mood. In an interview for London Jazz News*, Sharp says of her choice of saxophone: “The baritone is a lot of fun to play both as a solo instrument and as the ‘bottom end’ in a larger ensemble.” Sharp contributes only one of her own compositions, My Blue Jacket, which she originally wrote for Humphrey Lyttelton’s eight-piece band, which even in this slimmed-down rearrangement one can still imagine working well with a much larger ensemble.

The trio’s sound lends itself well to the bossa nova which is represented by Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Caminhos Cruzados and Clare Fischer’s Pensativa. Two relatively swinging tunes complete the set—Thad Jones’ Lady Luck and Lee Konitz’s Thingin’—and set the music firmly in its jazz roots.

Sharp’s sleeve notes perfectly evoke the purpose and meaning of this music. It features three musicians who together revelled in ‘the shared sense of space, freedom and spontaneity that comes from playing in a trio format’. This album captures this well and is recommended for anyone who would like to inhabit such an intimate and agreeable place for a while.

LINK: Interview with Karen Sharp

Categories: CD review

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