Reviews of Karen Street
22/06/2009 Chris Parker
Karen Street has been playing accordion since she was seven, but credits her involvement in Mike and Kate Westbrook's various projects for interesting her in jazz; on this album, she also plays saxophone and arranges material ranging from standards ('Bye Bye Blackbird', 'Get Happy', 'I Could Write a Book') and the odd samba ('How Insensitive') to in-band originals for various combinations of bassist Fred T. Baker, percussionist Andy Tween and singer Sara Colman.
The first-mentioned is the crucial presence, playing both bass and acoustic guitar, and generally providing tasteful, elegant accompaniment for both Street's lead instruments. Street and Baker have been playing together since the beginning of the millennium, and their resultant musical rapport is particularly notable on a sparky duo visit to 'Bye Bye Blackbird', but throughout, they mesh gracefully, whether they're providing a subtly funky backdrop to Colman's version of 'What's Love Got to Do with It?' or to her anti-female-exploitation song 'Place to Be'.
Street it is, however, who generally draws the ear, with her neat but cogent solos on both accordion and saxophone and the textural variety of her accompanying playing; overall, this is a quietly accomplished, pleasingly varied album. Chris Parker Jan 2009
22/06/2009 Andrew Vine
There haven't been many accordion players who made their mark in jazz, so Karen Street is a member of a rare breed. She's a terrific player, and this is an immensely enjoyable album. There's a striking musical partnership with guitarist and bassist Fred T Baker, and good vocals from up-and-coming singer Sara Colman. But it's the instrumentals that really catch the ear. Street's fluid solos on How Insensitive, Blue Daniel and Paradise Circus are splendid, and there's an upbeat feeling about the programme. Delightfully different. Andrew Vine Yorkshire Post
01/12/2005 John Fordham/The Guardian
For all the broadening of what constitutes jazz instrumentation, the accordion still isnít widely used, and is still considered a rarity. The UKís Karen Street first surfaced in the jazz world in Tim Garlandís folk jazz band Lammas and on this set she commits her own compositions to jazz variations from a fine group featuring Stan Sulzmann, guitarist Mike Outram and bassist Fred Thelonious Baker.
Street is a superb textural player, an affecting composer and a thoughtful accompanist. Some of the music is folksy, some suggestive of an old Stan Getz jazz-samba, some is Kurt Weillian, but all of it is lyrical.
Sulzmann is in relaxed and inventive form smoking and flaring on the slowly gliding title track, hooting like a tenor-sax Johnny Hodges on the Ellington/Strayhorn piece Mount Harissa, shaping his narrative subtly in Getz-like mode on Which Way Up.
01/02/2005 Kenny Mathieson
Karen Street lifted the title of her latest disc from the book of the same name by novelist E.Annie Proulx, but some folks would have you believe that all accordion playing is an offence. Karen Street is nothing if not dedicated to her often maligned instrument, however, and her partners in crime Ė saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, guitarist Mike Outram and bassist Fred Baker Ė provide excellent support for her inventions on the box. That combination of instruments works very effectively both in terms of timbre and musical texture and in the evocation of mood. Although accordion is primarily regarded as a folk instrument in this country , she comes at the music with a jazz sensibility and a strong influence from both central European and south American styles on the instrument. She includes the Ellington-Strayhorn composition ĎMount Harissaí and one traditional tune, ĎWhen a Knight Won his Spursí, alongside a half-dozen of her own atmospheric compositions.
01/02/2005 The Musician Magazine
With an artful cover sleeve of Cluedo pieces and its intriguing title. This album evokes late nights. Lonely streets, an aura of shady dealings and world-weary detectives from the first moment of listening. Crying out for use in a murder mystery, the title track pulls down the brim of its hat flicks its collar and narrows its eyes before luring you into a dark corner. Supported by the cool guitar of Mike Outram, together with sax king Stan Sulzmann and Fred T Baker on bass, composer and masterful accordionist Karen has created a work of great skill and variety.
Together with her first CD Finally Ö..a beginning, Accordion Crimes cements Karenís standing as one of the most evocative and dexterous accordionists in the country. Folk jazz at its unique best.
01/01/2005 Jazz UK
Itís always risky to call something a Ďfirstí, but I canít think of any other jazz record with a line-up of accordion, tenor sax, guitar and bass. But thatís the group assembled by Karen Street, and itís not only a unique sound, but features some fine playing by individuals who evidently rose to the occasion. Musicians who have given the accordion a genuine voice are rare, but Karen Street is undoubtedly among them.
01/12/2004 Dave Gelly/The Observer
This is one of the most charming and unexpected releases of the season. Karen Street has evolved an entire vocabulary for the accordion that works beautifully in the jazz context without forfeiting the instrumentís awkward individuality. It hasnít happened overnight as anyone has heard her work with Mike Westbrook, Tim Garland and others will know, but the firm confidence of this set establishes a whole new standard.
01/03/2002 Gail Brand/Musician Magazine
Writing, recording and producing a CD is up there with moving house in terms of hard work and commitment. Karen Street's hard work and commitment has produced a debut solo accordion work which seems to come straight from the heart. This feels like a personal journey for this accomplished and well-respected musician (work ranging from Mike Westbrook, Phil Robson Octet and sax player in Saxtet). As the title of the CD and eponymous first track suggests - this work has been a long time coming and this is reflected in the intensity and intelligent improvisational language of her music. Stan Sulzmann (flute & soprano sax) and Fred baker (bass and acoustic guitar) join Karen on five out of the ten tracks and their musical dialogue is engaging and artful.
The compositions range from hints at sunny nostalgia in Water Garden and Child's Play to a dark, riskier dynamic In the Ballroom with the Rope - deftly bringing Cluedo and accordion playing together at last! The energy and passion is strong and the musical skill is of a high order on all tracks which makes this a very listenable work.
02/02/2002 Rob Howard/Accordion World
To record a CD entirely of your own compositions is quite an intrepid thing for any musician to do, unless you already have the fame of an Elton John or a Lennon & McCartney. Karen Street, on her debut recording, has resisted the temptation for the 'play safe' option of recording pieces that are well known, and has recorded ten of her own compositions. These self compositions, however, reflect the artist's long association with the accordion world, with jazz musicians and with what is termed 'world music' and the music radiates her brilliance both as an accordionist and as a composer for the instrument. Karen indulges herself with some very modernistic, free wheeling music in which her considerable musical talent explores new frontiers. The occasional addition of some very tasteful guitar, saxophone and flute adds to the texture of the compositions and provides relief to the otherwise solo accordion playing. Karen Street's debut CD is an adventurous and imaginative exploration of the artist's inner self. Superb playing. Favourite tracks? The compelling, insistent rhythms of Horseshoe Bay and Full Circle made these pieces especially enjoyable.
02/02/2002 Andrew Vine/Yorkshire Post
Followers of the contemporary British Jazz scene might well have caught Karen Street playing in bands led by Mike Westbrook and Tim Garland. She plays accordion, and this debut CD is a thoughtful affair of quiet beauty in which her solo pieces often carry flavours of folk music. There's an intimate plaintive quality. Guitarist Fred T Baker and saxophonist Stan Sulzman take a bow on duets with Street. It's an appealing album.
01/01/2002 John Fordham/Jazz UK
Accordionist Karen Street has provided all kinds of impressionistic undercurrents to a variety of British bands in recent years - groups as different as Tim Garland's folk-jazz band Lammas and the vigourous American/UK postbop band he toured with last year, or world-music singer Martha Lewis' ensemble - but this is her debut with her own song. Street's playing leaves most of the instrument's traditional luggage behind while retaining it's evocative textures and faintly dolorous charm, and she's a fine improviser who clearly has her head and her fingers around the mechanics of jazz as well. Street is assisted here by a shrewdly-chosen pairing of Stan Sulzman's appropriately lyrical soprano saxophone and flute and the electric bass of Fred Telonious Baker, the UK's own Steve Swallow. A promising solo career...finally beginning.
11/11/2001 Dave Gelly
Karen Street and the jazz world met each other for the first time about 10 years ago, when composer Mike Westbrook decided to add accordion to his Big Band. Street was already well established in other fields, so the experience didn't suddenly turn her into a jazz musician, but her playing proved so jazz friendly that she's kept up the connection. This is her first album. It includes bass guitarist Fred T. Baker and Stan Sulzman on several tracks, playing a set of original pieces that touch on jazz, folk and even tango in a unique and very attractive style.
11/11/2001 Chris Parker/The Tablet
Karen Street, an accordionist who cut her jazz teeth with Mike Westbrook's orchestra and, more recently, with Tim Garland's jazz/folk outfit Lammas, could be said to fit into the sort of niche occupied in Britain by the various denizens of the Babel label. Her debut CD, "Finally ... a Beginning" (ATKS 0101 ), demonstrates not only Street's entirely successful adoption of an idiom initially foreign to her, but also a highly accomplished compositional gift. Judiciously interspersing solo pieces with duos involving either Fred T. Baker (on bass and acoustic guitars) or Stan Sulzmann (on soprano saxophone and flute), Street proves herself to be a thoughtful but vigorous soloist, intelligently exploiting all the considerable textural possibilities of her instrument with great aplomb. Her interaction with both Baker and Sulzmann is as lively as it is subtle, but it is her solo work that really impresses; her tribute to the bandoneon master, Astor Piazzolla, I Dance forYou, for instance, is imbued with all the passion and elegance that characterise the work of its late dedicatee.
09/11/2001 John Walters/Guardian
Karen Street is a composer and accordionist whose debut album is a fine showcase for her versatile talents, shown at their best on dramatic solo pieces such as the title track and In The Ballroom With The Rope. A couple of duets with Fred Thelonious Baker on acoustic guitar veer towards smooth jazz. Child's Play, with Stan Sulzman, is reminiscent of sweet 1960's soundtrack jazz - possibly more fun to play than to listen to - but the closing Full Circle has an added toughness from overdubbed accordions and Baker's more familiar electric bass. Anyone who has been impressed with Street's work with the Westbrooks and Tim Garland will want to investigate.
01/11/2001 Kenny Mathieson
This is the self-produced debut album from accordionist Karen Street (not to be confused with the more folk-oriented accordionist, Karen Tweed), and a fine one it is. Street is best known in jazz circles for her work with Mike Westbrook and Tim Garland. She is a highly resourceful player, but does not go in for shows of flashy virtuosity, preferring to concentrate on shaping and expressing her music. The compositions are all her own, and most of them are performed solo, although saxophonist Stan Sulzman and guitarist-bassist Fred Thelonious Baker help out on selected items
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