Christine Tobin: Romancing the Radical

Chris May By

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AAJ: You're looking forward to performing in New York, I imagine?

CT: I'm looking forward to it a lot. Phil is coming with me and Dave Whitford. I've been playing with Dave for a few years now and he's a very important person in my band. We're hooking up with Billy Hart, which will be great. Billy was on my Deep Song album, and I did some London dates with him back in '00. It will be tremendous to play with him again. The gig is during the IAJE annual conference, which I don't really know much about, but everybody says the timing is good.

AAJ: You've managed to keep pretty stable line-ups together since you started recording, haven't you?

CT: It's taken me a while to find the right people. I love working with Phil. I've got a really strong musical relationship with him. And Thebe Lipere, a very inventive South African percussionist. The music I do takes in a pretty diverse range of styles and I want people who can improvise with it all. But the structures are also quite clearly defined. To get that right balance, the right people, who contribute so enormously to the music, has taken time. With the guys I have now, I don't have to explain too much to them, because we've been together for a while. Recently I've been working adding another musician into the band, Simon Lea, a drummer, and also Kate Shortt, a cellist. I have a strong working relationship with Liam Noble too. Liam's a really excellent pianist.

AAJ: With such diverse musical influences, do you think you could broaden your audience out beyond the jazz one?

CT: I'd like to. The jazz audience can be quite conservative when it comes to singers. They're more broadminded when it comes to instrumental music: they seem to appreciate far-reaching work best if it's instrumental. With singers they head for more familiar territory.

I mean, I love doing standards, I love that too. In a way it's even more challenging, to do them really well, to make them sound half decent. But I'd like to get across to a broader audience. I do Brazilian songs, and I've been listening to a lot of West African music, and some of those influences are coming out in the way I sing and write. So I'd like to find a correspondingly open eared audience, who'd like to go to some new places.

That's one of the things that's so good about recording for Babel. Oliver Weindling has allowed me to develop as I want to. He doesn't try to push you in a certain direction; he likes you to make your own choices. I mean, he's interested to know what you're considering, but ultimately he gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. You really get a chance to develop.

AAJ: You seem to be working almost every night of the week right now. Have you been able to listen to music at home?

CT: I haven't had time to listen to much. One album I have been enjoying is Wayne Shorter's Algeria, and some Sunny Ade, and I recently bought Miles Davis' Porgy & Bess for the first time. And Omou Sangare from Mali. I love her. I first saw her about seven years ago, and saw her again this year. I also caught Youssou N'Dour's Barbican concert, with the Egyptian orchestra. Egypt is amazing.

AAJ: Can you tell us anything about your next album?

CT: It's taking shape, I've been thinking about it. I'm thinking of calling it The Secret Life Of A Girl. I've got about five songs that I've written since Romance And Revolution, plus a Leonard Cohen one that I've arranged. A lot of the songs are stories that feature female characters, some young, some older, and so I like that title. Now I need to take myself away to a quiet place and develop the ideas further.

Selected Discography

Christine Tobin, Christine Tobin's Romance And Revolution (Babel, 2004)
Crass Agenda, Savage Utopia (Babel, 2004)
Gary Husband, Aspire (Jazzizit, 2003)
Christine Tobin, You Draw The Line (Babel, 2003)
Peter Herbert, You're My Thrill (Between The Lines, 2002)
Hans Koller, Lovers And Strangers (33 Records, 2001)
Christine Tobin, Deep Song (Babel, 2000)
Christine Tobin, House Of Women (Babel, 1998)
Billy Jenkins, True Love Collection (Babel, 1998)
Lammas, Sourcebook (EFZ, 1997)
Christine Tobin, Yell Of The Gazelle (Babel, 1996)
Christine Tobin, Aliliu (Babel, 1995)
Peter Fairclough, Shepherd Wheel (ASC, 1995)

About Christine Tobin
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