Gareth Duffield reports on British jazz ensemble the TIM BONIFACE JAZZ QUARTET
Christian jazz acts are few and far between in the UK so the release of Tim Boniface Jazz Quartet's independent album 'Spotlight On TBJQ' is definitely worth noting. The project is intended to raise funds for the Oasis Trust charity. Piano player, saxophonist and guitarist Tim believes that 'Spotlight On TBJQ' is their best work yet. "The way jazz so often works," said Tim, "is you learn the standards and you play them and that's what people want to hear when they come to a jazz concert." But has God called them just to entertain people or should they be trying to influence people by doing Christian jazz that's unique? I wondered what makes the band different? "We're doing the best to be at the top of our jazz game but more importantly we're doing our best to make sure the audience has fun and enjoy themselves and feel included in a gig."
Having started playing jazz on saxophones and clarinet, Tim branched out to the piano in 2000 when the demand for small group work increased, and has since learned to play virtually every instrument on stage. Blurring standard jazz piano harmony with an understanding of fusion techniques, Tim finds the piano provides a large range of expression to allow the trio to entertain with many styles. It was teaming up with Ben Newton, who moved from acoustic bass to electric bass, and drummer Tom Early (currently studying jazz percussion at the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama in London) which was the foundation stone of what was originally the Tim Boniface Jazz Trio. In 2004 the group recorded an album 'Right On Time'. Two years later the quartet, featuring Kirsty, recorded an EP, 'Why The Moon/Spellbound'. Kirsty's misty and powerful vocal styling adds a warmth and variation to many of the Quartet's pieces, as well as her arranging and piano skills helping to widen the repertoire. Kirsty is currently working in Southampton.
The charity the band are supporting is a housing association run by the Oasis Trust in Peckham, South London. It looks after vulnerable women between 16 and 21. "It's one of the charities where you can see money make a difference immediately," Tim explained. "You can buy better furniture, better beds for them, better food, better kitchen equipment, all the things that a hostel needs immediately so it's superb. It's definitely worth seeing the gospel in action."
Having interviewed Tim and listened to the album it seems that this group of long term friends are simply doing what they can to serve God and serve the community through their music and are not making huge plans or pitching for a recording contract. Tim said, "If there comes a time where I need to put more energy into my music then so be it. But at the moment local church and live music go really well together so if the Lord can build local church through jazz bands then bring it on."
So what could the future look like for the Tim Boniface Quartet and the Christian jazz scene? Kirsty, the lead singer, is looking to be a professional musician and no doubt her faith will play a big part in whatever area of the industry she goes into and Tim did hint about exploring the idea of big band worship starting by using the festive season as an experiment. "I re-wrote some traditional carols for an 18-piece big band so that's something we're exploring at the moment. So you never know, big band worship is certainly happening here and there." With Tim and guitarist Henry George's connections with the hugely popular Ichthus Christian Fellowship (Henry is a pastor and Tim a pastoral worker) perhaps they could start a big band revolution. Imagine a capital city with Christian jazz clubs, giving opportunities for other Christians interested in jazz music to be a light in darkness in a unique way.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.