Bandwagon noun (pl. bandwagons) 1. A large wagon used to carry a band of musicians in a parade.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Album Review: Theo Jackson, Jericho

Theo Jackson, upcoming jazz songwriter, singer and pianist (and past Durham University student), cites Jean-Paul Sartre’s words on his website: “Jazz is like a banana…it must be consumed on the spot”. Having experienced Theo’s live album launch at Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club, I would have to agree. Hugely gripped by the high-energy performance on the night, I bought a copy of his album Jericho. This was a bit of a mistake. However much I want it to, the recorded album just doesn’t work. Although Theo believes that jazz is best up-close and personal, he notes, “making records has become a major part of a jazz musician’s career”.

In fairness to Theo, the more I listen to the album, the more I like it. The Spanish guitar plucking, catchy drumbeats, smooth chord sequences, and soulful sax playing combine to create a really chilled vibe. It’s the vocals I’m not so sure about. The album’s starter piece, “Excuse Me”, can be praised for its engaging instrumental build-ups, but the vocal line is cheesy and feels out of place. Even the thought-provoking lyrics (“These abacus beads are worn from counting my own fault lines”) don’t redeem it. Perhaps we should blame the “contemporary musicians” that Theo claims inspired this number. But then again, perhaps not… The American edge to Theo’s vocals becomes increasingly irritating as the album goes on, and the strain that can be heard in his voice on occasion makes me feel uncomfortable.

The only song that I prefer the album recording of is “I Won’t Care”. This track allows us to breathe for a moment since it omits bass and guitar, leaving us with a dreamy mix of piano, vocals and sax. The softness of this ballad comes across nicely and when Theo uses his soft upper tones it is a delight to the ears. The album features a number of other easy listening tunes such as “Another Day Of Rain” and “Tired”, but the album lacks the pizzazz we would expect to hear from a young, upcoming jazz musician. Tracks like “Summer Sands” lose the vibrancy they are capable of in a live performance, but at least the variety of styles and time signatures within the album holds our interest. Intermissions of scatting (as in “Fairytale”) are also welcome.

Although I think Theo Jackson’s album functions best as background music for a dinner party, I would encourage any jazz fan to go and listen to him (and his sensational band) in the flesh.


This album review was previously seen on The Bubble on 5th March 2012

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