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Recital Room, June 6th 2010

No, they aren’t Japanese, they’re Tina May, Nikki Iles and Karen Sharp. Iles and May are fond of working as part of a threesome with a sax player. In the past, they’ve worked with Tony Coe, Stan Sulzmann and Alan Barnes. Last weekend, at the Recital Room, it was tenor player Karen Sharp’s turn. Oh, and they call themselves the Tokyo Trio because they first performed as a group in the Japanese capital.

Tina May was apparently suffering from laryngitis. She told us she was full of antibiotics and painkillers, and warned us she might end up sounding like Paul Robeson. However, although she sounded slightly huskier than usual, it didn’t adversely affect her singing. It was actually Karen Sharp who looked least at ease on stage, although that might have been because she had to concentrate a lot to interleave her lines with what the others were playing: she might have looked slightly stiff and nervous, but if she was, it didn’t come across in her playing. Nikki Iles was consistently excellent. (If you’ve never come across her playing before, I recommend the recent “Bloor Street” album by The Secret Quartet – Iles, Martin Speake and a fine Canadian bass player and drummer.)

For much of the set, they stuck to fairly straight run throughs of the songs, whether these were well-known ones, or more obscure ones like Gershwin’s “Crush on You” and Dave Brubeck’s “In Your Own Sweet Way”. My favourites, however, were the ones where they stretched out and improvised a bit more, notably a version of “Feuilles Mortes / Autumn Leaves” on which May alternated between the French and English lyrics before she and Sharp provided scat and tenor riffing behind the piano solo, and a medley which started off as “Rhythm-a-ning” moved into “I Got Rhythm” itself, and then threw in allusions to several other pieces based on the IGR chords.

To wind up an entertaining evening, the women produced three clarinets from behind the piano, and gave us a clarinet trio version of Ellington’s “Creole Love Call”.

Rob Adams reviewed the gig in the Herald: http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/arts-ents/music-reviews/the-tokyo-trio-city-halls-glasgow-1.1033422