Acknowledged as one of the UK’s most versatile and creative cellists, trailblazing musicians and composers, Shirley Smart is equally at home and well versed in jazz, blues, folk, middle eastern and world music, as well as classical music. Drawing upon 10 years of living and working in Jerusalem where she embraced the overlapping worlds of jazz, Arabic, Turkish and north African music, her musicality is enriched by this tapestry of influences.
Inspired by her eclectic background, the trio promises an evening of vibrant melodies, grooves, swing and lively improvisation, showcasing Shirley’s unique ability to explore the potential of the cello in jazz and world-music contexts, performing multiple roles as bassist, lead and soloist on the instrument. Accompanying Shirley, the trio features John Crawford, one of the UK’s leading jazz pianists who shares Shirley’s interest in Latin and world-influenced jazz, and long term collaborator and flamenco master Demi Garcia Sabat on drums and percussion.
The trio has toured extensively in the UK and Europe; recent highlights include the Cheltenham and London Jazz Festivals, Vivacello Festival (Moscow) and Biennale Festival Bimhuis (Amsterdam).
Shirley’s career has been both unusual and diverse. She originally studied at the Guildhall School of Music, where she performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, gave a concerto debut at the Heritage Museum in St. Petersburg and played a concert of trios with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma at the Barbican. Further study took her to Paris, then to IMS Prussia Cove and on to the International Menuhin Academy in Switzerland. She subsequently left the UK for Jerusalem, studying and performing a wide variety of musical traditions and working with musicians on the vibrant Israeli jazz scene, such as Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Omer Avital (bass)and Yasmin Levy (vocals). Since returning to the UK, Shirley has firmly established herself on both the jazz and world music scenes, playing with many of the leading exponents of these genres, including Gilad Atzmon (saxophone/clarinet), Neil Cowley (piano), Antonio Forcione (guitar), Nicolas Meier (guitar), Maya Youssef (quanun) and Alice Zawadzki (violin/vocals). As well as her trio, Shirley has several other ongoing projects, including a sextet, Melange (a world music group) and a classical improvisation duo with pianist Ben Smith.
Shirley is also a keen educator. She is Professor of Musicianship and Improvisation at the Royal College of Music, Lecturer at Kent University and teaches for Trinity Laban Conservatoire and the RCM Junior Department. She is also in demand as a workshop leader, having given workshops for the National Youth Jazz Collective, Jazzlines, and Huddersfield and Manchester Universities.
Shirley Smart Trio – Live at Bimhuis: https://youtu.be/_y7KnRAX6ok?feature=shared
& Mobius Blues: https://shirleysmart.bandcamp.com/track/mobius-blues
‘..some of the most inventive use of the cello I’ve heard for some time.’ Kind of Jazz
‘a charming kaleidoscope and jazzy showcase of her global folk music-inspired compositions’ Jazzwise
‘A superb set – a sound world that is at once rooted in the ancient and traditional musics that it draws from in an utterly contemporary manner…’ Jazzviews