REVIEWS

SPIRIT

Dave Gelly - The Observer
With remarkably little fuss, Karen Sharp has risen from newcomer in Humphrey Lyttelton's final band to being voted top tenor saxophonist in 2010's British Jazz awards. Her style is so flexible she can move effortlessly from an old standard like "Bye Bye Baby" to her own ethereal title track, adjusting the sound through subtle shifts of tone and attack. Humph persuaded her to add baritone to her tenor, and she is equally impressive on that. Her quartet - pianist Nikki Iles, bassist Dave Green and drummer Steve Brown - is undisputedly A-team, and her material full of pleasant surprises.

Alison Kerr - The Scotsman
Baritone saxophonist Karen Sharp graduated from the Humphrey Lyttelton band and is now established as an in-demand solo star, who fits perfectly into mainstream and contemporary line-ups. This quartet CD, which features her Tokyo Trio colleague Nikki Iles on piano, veers more towards the contemporary and features mainly jazz compositions written by pianists as well as some familiar movie/musical numbers. A terrific introduction to Sharp's authoritative, swinging baritone sax style..

WAIT AND SEE
One of the most rewarding consequences of wearing two hats - labelled bandleader and broadcaster respectively - is the unique opportunity it offers to witness talent unfolding. Karen Sharpís new album confirms what I have already observed, that over the past three or four years, she has steadily - I might almost say stealthily - developed into a major artist on the scene.
ĎWait and Seeí is a delight from start to finish. Karenís playing on both saxophones is a perfect blend of poise and passion. One moment she is bringing out the beauty of a Billy Strayhorn composition with rare tenderness, the next she leads her wonderfully complementary band in a track that captures, in a way remarkable for a small group, the urgency of one of Charles Mingusís rampaging gospel-inspired pieces.
Some of the best things here are Karenís own compositions. I know, because I have had to discipline myself to play some of them, of her meticulous attention to detail with regard to form and dynamics. Anyone who approaches them in the expectation of a predictable ramble down familiar paths will have many a pleasurable surprise.
This is the first album of hers on which Karen Sharp has played baritone saxophone. Having persuaded her to buy one when she joined my band three years ago, I glow in the dark with the awareness that she now has one of the best sounds on the instrument to be heard on this planet. In fact, listening to this lovely album has made me seriously phosphorescent, so Iíll say no more. Youíve got the gist.
Humphrey Lyttelton - March 2007

For the past three years Karen Sharp has been playing saxophone in Humphrey Lyttelton's band. To begin with, she concentrated on the tenor, but at Humph's urging soon added the baritone. This is her third solo album and it's hard now to say which instrument is her strongest, because she sounds so authoritative on both. 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. Her band is excellent, especially trombonist Adrian Fry.
Dave Gelly - The Observer Sunday 8th July

Karen graces the Lyttelton saxophone section and plays accomplished tenor that derives more from Zoot and Al rather than from John C. Her baritone playing has similarly auspicious roots. So itís not surprising that there are echoes of the Mulligan-Brookmeyer, Getz-Brookmeyer and Zoot-Brookmeyer quintets. That is not to say that the music is not wholly original and indeed this is one of those unusual occasions when the original compositions are worthwhile songs and not simply musical exercises in dexterity. Karenís ballad The Shortest Day is a good example, beautifully conceived and delivered and much helped by sensitive piano from Busiakiewicz. He and Fry are real finds and his poise on Day and his confident sweep through the registers suggests that he, like Karen, has a great future.
Karen obviously loves the sax/trombone voicing and uses it to produce deep and sonorous theme statements - Princess Olive is a good example - and particularly effective in the Mingus manner for Slop. Appropriately Fry shouts like Knepper would have done. The Newley-Bricusse Pure Imagination makes a good workout for tenor and Karen uses the whole range of the horn. On Barbecue Karen wails and Fry confirms that, like the stalwart Willie Dennis, he likes minimal tonguing. Busiakiewicz has a robust and dancing solo that makes one wonder where he has been hiding. After All, Strayhornís tune, finds him at his most Evans-like whilst Karenís baritone is without fault - beautifully poised and fat tone and full value to the notes in the manner of the ex-Lytteltonian Temperley.
Back to tenor for a good old wail on Roland Kirkís final blues (he also wrote the romping Bright Moments) and more convoluted trombone from the estimable Mr Fry.
It does nothing but good for those of us who donít get out much to be exposed to the music of young people of this calibre. Itís reassuring to hear agile and passionate solos played with the sound of the experience of veterans.
Humphrey Lyttelton glows with pride at having persuaded Karen to take up the baritone. He reports that listening to this album makes him positively phosphorescent. This is Karen Sharpís second CD. The first one sold out so if you too wish to glow in the dark this one should be acquired with alacrity.
Steve Voce - Jazz Journal International, March 2007

"....an extraordinary talent." Phil Collins, BBC Radio 2

"Karen Sharp is†a most impressive young talent, effortless swinging tenor playing- a must for any size gig. Can't wait for her return." Peter Bronson. Bournemouth Modern Jazz Club

"....Also making her debut, delivering a big, mature sound from her tenor sax, was the fantastic, diminutive Karen Sharp." Robin Paterson, Peterborough Jazz Club

LIVE
Tenor saxophonist Karen Sharp returned to her home town to promote her second, and latest CD, 'So Far So Good', and the performance did the sales a power of good.
Itís an appropriate title too, for Karen has come a long way in a comparatively short period of time.
Only a decade ago she was playing in local bands in Ipswich and Suffolk, having been bitten by the jazz bug while still at Northgate Grammar School, and then by the saxophone while she was studying composition at the Northern College of Music. She left her job at the post office counter in Tower Ramparts and headed for London where she quickly became established and was invited to deputise for the legendary Kathy Stobart in Humphrey Lytteltonís band. . . a job she now holds permanently following Kathyís retirement!
She has, of course, established her own band, and a fine band it is too, featuring Richard Busiakiewicz on piano, John Day on double bass and drummer Matt Fishwick. Her recording band also features trumpeter Dave Priseman, but he was unable to make the Ipswich gig through illness. They provide tremendous support and are an excellent vehicle for Ms Sharpís saxophone playing.
She presented a highly varied and entertaining programme that featured plenty of standards plus several of Miss Sharpís own compositions that are lyrical and melodic and stand up well in such company as Fats Waller, Ray Noble, Frank Leosser, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Tad Dameron and Dexter Gordon.
It was an original composition, Mister Gasman, that got the concert off to a swinging start and there was a Latin feel about Mangos, that featured Matt Fishwick on drums. Things slowed down somewhat for the wistful ballad, The Touch of Your Lips, that produced a fine bass solo from John Day, and there was a innovative solo from Richard Busiakiewicz in Small World, another superb ballad.
Piano and bass introduced the gently swinging Candy that open the second set, and a similar pace was set for Iíve Never Been in Love Before, from Frank Leosserís Guys and Dolls.
Karen Sharp literally breezed her way through the haunting ballad If You Could See Me Now, taken at a gentle swing before the show ended with an up tempo version of I Want More.
The audience certainly did and Karen obliged with an encore. It was a sure footed performance and Karen Sharp is now clearly capable of holding her own with the best. In fact one observer at the concert said that she had sounded remarkably like the top American saxophonist Scott Hamilton who played the same venue a couple of years ago. And praise doesnít come much better than that.
Alan Crumpton,
East Anglian Daily Times

SO FAR SO GOOD
Saxist Sharp's second CD, a 2004 recording, retains the musicians from her first, but marks what John Prescott calls a 'step change'. As before, the presence of pianist Richard Busiakiewicz;' percussive, rhythmically positive style is a considerable bonus. Sharp plays baritone with Humph, but it's tenor all the way here, the sound warm and well-centred, in a broad mainstream manner. She mixes some good standards, like the lovely 'I've Never Been in Love Before', with several sparky originals, and trumpeter Dave Priseman adds some muscle (notably on Sharp's 'Doowap', with its Dexter-like finish). Bassist John Day and drummer Matt Fishwick turn up trumps all through. Tasty music.
Peter Vacher - Jazz UK

SO FAR SO GOOD
Karen Sharp's second release on the 33 label. 'So Far So Good', conveys exactly that. Bolstered by a solid rhythm team and the sterling trumpet musings of Dave Priseman on a few tracks, Karen clearly asserts herself as tenorist, arranger/composer and bandleader of considerable talents. There is a balanced mix of reasonably well-known standards, along with lesser-known tunes by jazz composers like Hefti, Waller and Dexter Gordon, as well as Ms Sharp's originals. Dexter's 'I Want More' (an appropriate title considering the rangy Californian's appetite for addi≠tives) is a unique and welcome inclusion for these ears.
While it is understandable that recognisable songs should be included on a jazz release, I found her originals (particularly 'Mr Gas Man' and 'Small World') noticeably more engaging and distinct than the treatments of standards. These pieces, while hearkening the influences and stylistic moods of standards, go a long way to bringing out the strengths and uniqueness of the performers.
Karen's centred, even and engaging tone, coupled with a fluid basic technique sits well with her love and stylistic pursuit of the hard bop idiom. The support offered by hubby John Day's sturdy basswork is welcome indeed, although this listener was left wanting for more solo excursions from him. Mancunian time merchant, drummer Matt Fishwick. is a bandleader's dream in his exemplary handling of matters ensemble, combined with his flawless stewardship of tempos and feels. He is no mean soloist either, as he continues to develop a refreshing melodical approach to his percussive breaks. Rounding out this fine 'section' are the pointed, rapid fire, bop like torrents executed by pianist Richard Busiakeiwicz. His rather sharp melodic articulations are effectively balanced by his unrelenting drive and winning skills as an accompanist and tune merchant (he knows 'em all).
The inclusion of Chuck Chaplin's 'Smile' did not leave me lost and drowned, and its brief reprise at the CD's end brought about a welcome close to the proceedings. A most pleasant and musical 'Chapter Two' of Karen's oeuvre is in evidence here, and we all await the next offering that will undoubtedly promise even more.
Frank Griffith, musician's union magazine

'TIL THERE WAS YOU (33jazz 081 CD)

Karen Sharp is a young tenor saxist well know to me since she's played often of late in my own band. Over the past year she's moved not in a flash in the pan flurry of notes but with well paced assurance to the status of class A player. Some months ago I played a track from a Cd she produced herself, now it's been taken up by a regular label - 33 records - and here's another track from it. But beautiful. But beautiful not only in title but a personal opinion as well.
Humphrey Lyttleton
The Best of Jazz

TIL' THERE WAS YOU
The debut album of a remarkable young tenor saxophonist. Karen Sharp seems to have the complete kit - warm, singing tone, melodic flair, great sense of swing and an ear for good material. All these come together in convincing performances of pieces such as Ellington's 'Jump for Joy' and Lester Young's 'Tickletoe', both of which move along with muscular grace. Equally impressive is her interpretation of classic ballads, the outstanding one here being 'In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning', a short tune of such perfect simplicity that it is very hard to expand on. She is joined for three numbers by the excellent trumpeter Dave Priseman, and it would be difficult to find a more apt rhythm section than this one, consisting of Richard Busiakiewicz, John Day and Matt Fishwick.
Dave Gelly
The Observer,

TIL' THERE WAS YOU
Karen is newly out of music college in the UK and is already proving to be a 'hot' tenor saxophonist. Karen started out studying composition but changed ditection to become a saxophonist. Influenced by Dexter Gordon with hints of a young Stan Getz, her music is a delight to listen to. There are not many new UK jazz artists who can send out a debut album with a sticker that has a personal recommendation from Humphrey Lyttelton. But then again, there are few young saxophonists like Karen Sharp! Lyttelton's comment '...here is a superb musician fit and ready to take off' cannot be bettered. Working here with Richard Busiakiewicz on pian, Matt Fishwick on drums, John Day on double bass and Dave Priseman on trumpet, this is an album for the true saxophone fan. Sharp jumps in with a swinging version of 'Till there was you'. It all sounds so easy for her, and when followed by Lester Young's 'Tickle-Toe' you can begin to get a real feel for this newcomer's talents. The sound mix is perfect, just as jazz should be. Record companies should take note of this album, which was originally orchestrated mostly by Sharp herself. Not only is the sound good and the band excellent, but the structure of the album is well thought out with a build up and slow down. Sharp's rendition of 'In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning' is a perfect ending to a truly great album. We look forward to many other recordings from this young artist.
'Movin' Music'
Produced by Mike Curtis of Pipedream productions Ltd.

TIL' THERE WAS YOU
Ms Sharp is a young instrumentalist who favours an older style. The notes suggest Dexter Gordon as her primary influence but there's evidence aplenty that she likes earlier masters too. Her sound has something of Gordon's unostentatious quality and she uses his slightly stiff-legged approach to rhythm, happy to give a melody some air. Sharp has also taken a very sensible course in inviting Busiakiewicz to join her quartet for this pianist seldom falls short of a good idea and is on splendid form here. Sharp opens with a very relaxed Till There Was You' with Busiakiewicz unfurling a solo that's a continuous pleasure, unhurried yet full of incident. The quartet as a whole gives Lester's 'Tickle-Toe' a perky run-through with Sharp staying nearer Scoff Hamilton's swing thing on this. Prizeman joins in on three from nine and his Edison like trumpet on 'Five O'Clock Sharp' adds to the congenial mainstream atmosphere of the album. Sharp's version of 'But Beautiful' is quite a feather in her cap, poised and reflective as a ballad should be, with some jewel-like piano. All in all, she seems like a find to me.
Peter Vacher. Jazz Wise.

TIL' THERE WAS YOU
Stylish, big-toned, vaguely in the "Texas" tradition, aptly describes Karen Sharp's tenor playing, which is firmly swinging and based clearly in the mainstream camp. Indeed it's a treat to hear a tenorist who doesn't try and copy Coltrane. Karen swings and I can't say better than that. You should all hear Karen if you appreciate good tenor playing, and so far as I'm concerned she signals a clear hope for the future of the best in jazz tenor sax. There may be others but to me she represents a logical follow-on from Betty Smith and Kathy Stobart, with good ideas, nice phrasing and lots of beef in the sound and approach. Pianist Richard, I know, even if I can't spell his name, I can pronounce it, and he is an ideal companion for Karen's approach. Dave Priseman is a new name, but he acquits himself well albeit in a supportive capacity, as indeed do bass and drums. Karen is a star in the making, no doubt of that.
Eddie Cook.
Jazz Journal International. Musician Magazine.

TIL' THERE WAS YOU
Karen Sharp is a wonderful saxophone player! She has made this debut album with a fine group of young musicians of the new generation, all fairly well known already and they have produced a tidy, well-crafted CD which I would remember. She has a lovely sound, great rhythmic feel and speaks the jazz language fluently. However, She says in the notes that she has,"...taken a snapshot of her efforts so far" and this statement and her two original pieces reveal a more progressive and risky attitude, which augers well for the future. In this album she, Richard Busiakiewicz (piano), John Day (bass) and, on three tracks, Dave Priseman (trumpet) thread very carefully and accurately through the changes and although I did enjoy this album very much, I look to the next one even more!
Eddie Harvey.
Musicians' Union Magazine.