Cellist, composer and improviser
Shirley Smart is recognised as one of the UK’s most versatile and creative cellists – being equally at home and well versed in jazz and Middle Eastern music, as well as classical music.
Originally trained under Raphael Wallfisch at the Guilldhall School of Music, and Janos Starker in Paris, she subsequently moved to Jerusalem, where she remained for 10 years, studying and performing a wide variety of musical traditions from the North Africa, Turkey and Middle East. She was also highly active on the jazz scene, working with artists including Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital and Yasmin Levy.
Since returning to the UK, she has quickly become known as one of the most creative cellists on the music scene and has worked with many leading jazz and world music groups, including Antonio Forcione, Mulato Astatke, Gilad Atzmon, Neil Cowley, Julian Ferraretto, Robert Mitchell, and Alice Zawadski.
She leads her own trio, with John Crawford on piano, and Demi Garcia Sabat on drums, and sextet.
Other projects include Issis Barratt’s Interchange, a freely improvised duo with multi-instrumentalist James Arben and duo with pianist Robert Mitchell, with whom a duo CD is to be released on Discus Records later in 2021.
Shirley is Head of Performance and a Lecturer in Music at City University, and also teaches Improvisation and Jazz at the Royal College of Music Junior Department. She is a visiting tutor for the National Youth Jazz Collective, and an in demand workshop leader.
..some of the most inventive use of the cello I’ve heard for some time.
Kind of Jazz
as a cellist-composer she morphs seamlessly from Stephane Grappelli like swing and Bird-like bebop…
a charming kaleidoscope and jazzy showcase of her global folk music-inspired compositions
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 that also incorporates modern jazz.
This is an exceptionally strong leadership debut from a lady that I’m sure we are destined to hear much more from.
Long Story Short represents another impressive offering from Smart and is a worthy début under her own name.The album covers an impressive amount of musical and geographical ground with its range of styles and influences. Smart’s playing, both with and without the bow, is exceptional throughout..
…a stunning pizzicato solo, her playing reminiscent of a top jazz bassist. And she’s pretty handy with the bow too!
Intense, lyrical and full of energy….A thrilling range on technique on display…Smart’s cello singing, snarling or pumping out bass line….Fascinating listening, and thought-provoking entertainment for the open-eared
The Arts Desk
Smarts playing is particularly remarkable throughout. She readily demonstrates a wide range of techniques incorporating an understanding of improvisation drawn from a jazz background and her extensive knowledge of Arabic maqam..
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