The majority of CDs that we get sent are by jazz vocalists, trying to put their own spin on the Great American songbook, or reinterpreting modern pop songs in a jazz style. So it’s refreshing to come across a young musician who steadfastly refuses to include any standards on his debut recording, and offers a beguiling collection of original songs.
Theo Jackson is a British jazz vocalist, pianist and songwriter, who first came to prominence at London’s 606 Jazz Club a few years back. Since then, he has continued to develop his craft, and performed at a number of prestigious venues and jazz festivals, including the EFG London Jazz Festival.
Shoeless And The Girl is his second full-length CD, and consists of eight original compositions, and two Wayne Shorter compositions – Footprints and Wild Flower – both of which have been re-imagined by Jackson, who added his own lyrics. The band comprises of Jackson’s own trio, which consists of Huntly Gordon on double bass and Marco Quarantotto on drums. On the opening track, Little Do You Know, they are joined by long-term collaborator Nathaniel Facey on alto saxophone, who plays with MOBO-award winning jazz band Empirical. Leo Richardson plays tenor on two tracks, and Quentin Collins adds a touch of flugelhorn to the title track.
The songs themselves draw on the best traditions of jazz, classic singer-songwriters, with hints of Joni Mitchell thrown into the mix. Songs like Lonesome George and Love And A Shoestring, suggest that from a lyrical perspective, Jackson is drawn to people who are struggling to fit in with society. The title track deals with the loneliness of two characters, “but it also a sort of parable,” the singer reveals. “The idea being that despite our seemingly vast differences, we all still share so much and that therefore none of us are truly alone in anything.” There’s a veil of sadness draped over many of these character sketches, but an understanding too, that tends to draws the listener in.
The two Wayne Shorter tunes also illustrate Jackson’s ambition. He still feels that he has much to learn about jazz, and it’s a bold move to reinterpret two classic instrumentals, and add his own lyrics – which, incidentally, were approved by Shorter himself.
Jackson’s voice is warm and inviting, perfectly suited to the songs he writes, and his band is superb, with some of the inventive touches demonstrated by drummer Quarantotto particularly noteworthy. The recording is also excellent, with every effort made to record the vocals live, with the band, so as to represent the sound as realistically as possible.
Shoeless And The Girl was released on Dot Time Records in Europe this week, and is scheduled for global release in September. Tour dates can be found on Jackson’s website. Highly recommended.