Theo Jackson

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Reviews of Theo Jackson


13/04/2011 TimeOut

"Soulful, earthy vocal-led jazz from this impressive young singer with a powerful yet subtle voice, Jackson also has a knack of penning Stevie Wonder-esque originals that avoid the usual crooner clichés. Helping maintain these lofty standards are superb Empirical altoist Facey and cool guitarist McCredie. Jackson's one to watch out for."


14/01/2011 Derek Ansell (Jazz Journal International)

The Jackson band plays music from the classic modern jazz repertoire forged mainly in the 1940's, '50s and early 1960s. This music is now in the mainstream of jazz and it is good to hear it played by young musicians who will carry on the tradition and help to develop and expand it while at the same time ensuring its survival.

They began with Stolen Moments a blues written and originally performed by Oliver Nelson in 1961. Nathaniel Facey, a strong improvising musician with a ripe, boppish alto sound, played a stinging, highly original solo here, as did his front line partner Jamie McCredie on guitar. The leader added a rarely heard vocal to his flowing piano lines and the rhythm section ensured a smooth pulse throughout.

An example of good programming from this band was their fast and furious version of Charlie Parker's Confirmation followed by a slow ballad reading of Billy Strayhorn's Daydream. Not least in the solo honours was bassist Shane Allessio's bowed solo where his intonation and inventive lines formed a highlight of this piece. Allessio plays strong backing to the horns but is also a highly gifted soloist himself, playing like a saxophonist in terms of invention, both arco and pizzicato, something rarely heard since the days of the late, great Paul Chambers.

The wide variety of music offered by the Jackson band indicates that they have a bright future. There were many highlights on this occasion with a warm ballad reading of You don't Know What Love Is played by just Jackson and saxophonist Facey high on the list. Never Let Me Go gave the leader a chance to show his gift for expressive ballad singing allied to skillful work at the keyboard. He also came up with a rarely heard vocal version of John Coltrane's classic ballad, written for his first wife, Naima.

There was good ensemble playing all through these performances with a high level of solo contributions also evident. The four bar exchanges between McCredie's guitar and Jason Reeve's drums were highly charged and added to the excitement generated.

I've heard it said that Theo Jackson is tipped to be the next Jamie Cullum. Well, maybe but I hope he keeps a level head and stays with jazz if the big time beckons because I think he is even better than Jamie.


21/06/0012 Michael Wilson, Jazz FM

"One of Britain's finest jazz musicians and singers."


18/05/0012 Bruce Lindsay, ALL ABOUT JAZZ

Singer, pianist and songwriter Theo Jackson lives in Oxford, of university fame, and his debut album Jericho is named after an area of the city rather than the ancient town that suffered so much from an excessively loud horn section. There's no need to fear excessively loud horns here: Jackson and his quartet build drama with more subtlety than that and engineer Derek Nash ensures that recording quality is high.

Jackson's voice is capable of the occasional bluesier, rougher edged tone but he stays mostly in the upper half of his range and at the softer, more romantic end of the spectrum—a Harry Connick, Jr. rather than a Dr John. Jackson has developed a reputation for performing a wide range of material live—including numbers from Charlie Parker, Oliver Nelson and John Coltrane—but he sticks with his own compositions (with lyrics co-written by Molly Hollman) on Jericho.

"Excuse Me" is a song in the musical theater tradition: the narrative of the lyric could readily serve to drive the plot of a boy-meets-girl storyline and Jackson's voice has an easy style and immediate likeability. "I Won't Care" is a mournful ballad on which Jackson plays some considered and spacious piano phrases. The tune also features Brandon Allen on tenor saxophone: his solo, accompanied solely by Jackson's piano, adds greatly to the mood of the song with just the right mix of romance and regret.

Jackson's musician's sensibility means that he's more than happy to give his fellow instrumentalists the chance to stretch out. Saxophonist Nathaniel Facey, from Empirical, grabs the chance wholeheartedly—his playing is exemplary, especially his tender solo on "Excuse Me" and his more up-tempo swing on "Moths." Guitarist Jamie McCredie spends much of his time as part of the excellent rhythm section with drummer Jason Reeve and American bassist Shane Allessio. When he moves to the forefront, on acoustic guitar for "You Saved Me" and "Another Day Of Rain" or electric for the soulful "Summer Sands," McCredie's lead playing is dynamic and perfectly judged.

While it's great to hear these musicians play, the tunes can stretch a little too far and lose the focus of Jackson's vocal: only "Summer Sands" comes in under five minutes. "Another Day Of Rain" and "Excuse Me" are beautiful songs but at between eight and ten minutes in length they're unlikely to get on many playlists. A pared-down "Excuse Me (Radio Edit)," for example, could attract the attention of a wider spectrum of programmers—assuming that's what Jackson wants.

Jericho is a welcome creation—the work of a young male vocalist who is steering a route that avoids the well-trodden paths of The Great American Songbook and heads towards a potentially fascinating musical destination.

Track Listing: Excuse Me; Fairytale; I Won't Care; Moths; Ballad Of A Broken Head; You Saved Me; Summer Sands; Another Day Of Rain; Tired.

Personnel: Theo Jackson: vocals, piano; Nathaniel Facey: alto saxophone; Jamie McCredie: guitar; Shane Allessio: double bass; Jason Reeve: drums; Brandon Allen: tenor saxophone


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