"One of the most interesting jazz vocalists and composers to emerge on the British scene in recent years, Jackson can flit between ballads and rapid-fire scatting in the blink of eye."
"One of Britain's finest jazz musicians and singers."
Michael Wilson, JAZZ FM
"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. . . Jackson's one to watch out for."
"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."
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Singer-pianist Theo Jackson is rapidly gaining a reputation on the scene as a composer of strikingly original songs with a captivating stage presence."
STEVE RUBIE, THE 606 CLUB
"Vocalist Theo Jackson leads his band from the piano, with a confidence and assurance that comes from being a true musician, and the trust and knowledge that the other guys on the stand are too."
"Vibrant new talent!"
UK JAZZ VOCALISTS
"The 27-year-old Durham university music graduate is hardly wet behind the ears, and his tall confident demeanour makes the right statement in a jazz club. He’s not toe-curlingly schmaltzy, like some wannabe jazz singers tend to be, and you feel that he doesn’t take himself too seriously even if that’s the way he prefers his music."
STEPHEN GRAHAM, MARLBANK.NET
"Smooth jazz tones and unmissable piano skills. . . The talented Theo Jackson has been praised for his versatility in piano and vocals as well as his terrific showmanship. Not to be missed."
"Theo himself is a joy to watch as well as listen to. He has a slightly madcap set of facial expressions and is a twitchy, energetic performer . . . The lack of pretence and sheer joy of just playing music he loves is refreshing, and makes a welcome change from the ‘too cool for school’ permanent scowls of some local young (and not so young) bands plying their trade."
"What a fantastic gig from the Theo Jackson Quintet on Tuesday. They lifted the roof and everyone's spirits. Great musicality, absolute commitment, complete enjoyment and sizzling excitement - on both sides of the footlights. If you missed it, make sure you get there next time!"
BRIAN STANLEY, ST. IVES JAZZ CLUB
JERICHO - THEO JACKSON
MAY 18TH 2012
REVIEWED FOR 'ALL ABOUT JAZZ' BY BRUCE LINDSAY
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
THEO JACKSON BAND
GORING GAP JAZZ CLUB
FRIDAY 14th JANUARY 2011
REVIEWED BY DEREK ANSELL (journalist for Jazz Journal International and author of 'Workout: The Music of Hank Mobley' and 'It's All in the Music: The Art of John Coltrane')
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.
THEO JACKSON QUINTET
JAN 4th 2011
REVIEWED FOR LONDONJAZZ BY SARAH ELLEN HUGHES
Vocalist Theo Jackson leads his band from the piano, with a confidence and assurance that comes from being a true musician, and the trust and knowledge that the other guys on the stand are too. He is the first to applaud (well, his hands are occupied on the keys so by 'applaud' I mean 'acknowledge by exclaiming') altoist Nathaniel Facey's solo. These guys gel together well. It may be a young band - it was in fact Theo's 25th birthday, and the rest of the band range from 24-29 - but there is maturity in their grooves and in their respect and understanding of each other.
Unfortunately, Theo was clearly struggling with some of the high notes - perhaps the remnants of a winter cold playing havoc with his performance. Nevertheless, where he's let down in power and range, he more than makes up for in tone and vocal dexterity. He's got a beautiful voice. It's well-controlled with a casual jazz vibrato, and a pop-y flexibility. It's a satisfying sound.
Theo is clearly a talented writer and instrumentalist, as well as musician and performer. However, not one of the tunes is arranged to exploit the instruments at his disposal which I feel is a wasted opportunity.
The highlight of the first set for me was Charlie Parker's Confirmation. Not necessarily for the vocal - a charming delivery but not accurate enough in diction or intonation to be convincing (although saved once again by that gorgeous tone shining through). No, this is where the band went to town.
Guitarist Jamie McCredie was a most thrilling soloist. I wish he'd had a mic to capture his singing, as it certainly looked like he was scatting along perfectly to his own solo. Nathaniel Facey proved exactly why he was the worthy recipient of the Worshipful Company of Musicians Young Jazz Musician's prize a few months prior. And let's not forget Theo Jackson at the piano. He modestly tells me that he's not a pianist. But his well-worked solos develop logically, being both thoughtfully-crafted and dexterously-impressive, and above all making sense, without resorting to flashy finger-wiggling.
During this tune they traded 8s between instruments which was great fun. The only thing lacking was the tremendous applause for a stunning drum solo which Jason Reeve had worked hard for and would have deserved.
I introduced myself to Theo during the interval and it was clear that he had actually lost his voice. He didn't complain to the crowd about it - the only reference while singing was during Devil May Care where a growling voice finished off this 1950s bop standard with all the gruffness of a 90s rocker. "I'm quite enjoying this raspy thing," he said before singing the last 2 bars. That’s a pro at work!
Drummer Jason Reeve really shone in this tune too, echoing licks and responding musically to the soloists as well as exploring the whole kit and a range of styles in his own too-short solo.
Other memorable moments were You Saved Me, a lilting 5/4 giving bassist Philipp Moll a chance to weave a lyrical solo. He's been impressive throughout. Tired drew its inspiration from a hopeless teenage crush on a music teacher, and Pat Metheny's Minuano allowed this band to exploit the groove that is clearly their forte. A brave encore finished the night off well.
I can't wait for the full-throated show, to see what Theo Jackson is really capable of.
THEO JACKSON QUARTET
DoM JAZZ CLUB
JUNE 1st 2011
REVIEWED BY ANDREW JONES FOR MUSICINOXFORD.CO.UK
Seeing as this was my first time at the Duke of Monmouth, and my first at the ‘Jazz at the DoM’ Nights run by Oxford-born jazz promoter and talented sax player Trish Elpinstone, it would have been wrong, even rude of me not to sample the menu of risotto porcini, with beef fillet slices and seasonal salad, followed by Mövenpick Ice Dream, a de-gorgeous strawberry and ice cream dish.
This, needless to say, set me up nicely for the job in hand, which was to review the Theo Jackson Quartet.
Theo leads his band from the piano and his likeable, easy-going, confident manner makes one warm to him instantly. Throughout the set the playing is polished and accomplished – perhaps a little too polished for my tastes at time, but still with enough grit in the smooth to hold my interest and indeed have me nodding my head in appreciation.
The first song in the set captured my attention with a strong a cappella vocal intro, Theo’s vocal reminding me of Mark Murphy or Mike Campbell. The band then proceeded to work a kicking version of ‘Stormy Monday’, with scat vocals, sweet bass and guitar solos. This made for a satisfying start to the evening.
I was very impressed with the first original composition of the night, entitled ‘Another Day in Rain’, a soul/jazz midtempo jazz groover with a strong Stevie Wonder influence, both vocally and musically. Throughout the first set, Theo and his band kept the groove locked tight, with fluidity and great expression. Jamie McCreadie, on guitar, was actively encouraged by Theo to contribute superb solos that would make the likes of Wes Montgomery or Earl Klugh proud.
The first set closed with a ‘Billy’s Bounce’, a joyful jazz scat bopper, with stunning playing from drummer Jason Reeves. The second set proceeded with another very strong original tune called – I think – ‘Fairytale’, with yet another masterful performance from Theo on vocals and keys, the piano style reminding me at times of fusion pianist David Benoit.
The music on display continued throughout the evening in a similarly high quality vein; a mixture of ballads and up-tempo numbers doing more than enough to keep the well-attended venue entertained and impressed. Special mention must be made here to the band: Jamie McCreadie (guitar), Paul Jefferies (double bass), Jason Reeve (drums). As well as keeping the groove rock solid, their solos were on point and played with feeling. Theo himself is a joy to watch as well as listen to, he has a slightly madcap set of facial expressions and is a twitchy, energetic performer. Clearly a talented instrumentalist, writer and vocalist, Theo also has pop appeal, and with youth still on his side he has plenty of time to develop his talent. The lack of pretence and sheer joy of just playing music he loves is refreshing, and makes a welcome change from the ‘too cool for school’ permanent scowls of some local young (and not so young) bands plying their trade.