‘Street ..should be ranked among top accordionists anywhere’ ..

Ronald Atkins – Jazz Review

Street proves herself to be a thoughtful but vigorous soloist, intelligently exploiting the considerable textural possibilities of the instrument with great aplomb’....

Chris Parker

Nothing against drummers, but this particular line up was particularly effective in bringing out the sound quality of each instrument, as well as the personal touch of the player. Will Harris’s double bass gave the music its warm centre and its pulse. Mike Outram demonstrated again his mastery of all areas of the guitar, endlessly inventive in time, harmony and texture. Andy Tweed showed his awesome command of the saxophone, from the creamiest sound you’ll ever hear in the tenor, to upper register fireworks. With her disarmingly un-showy and honest announcements, Karen Street, held us all in thrall from the word go, with the magic of her accordion, gentle humour, pyrotechnics, drama and romance.

Live Review Streetworks, Exeter, Mike Westbrook 2014

‘Karen Street is a composer and accordionist whose debut album is a fine showcase for her versatile talents’

John Walters - Guardian

Together with her first CD Finally .....a beginning, Accordion Crimes cements Karen’s standing as one of the most evocative and dexterous accordionists in the country. Folk jazz at its unique best.

Jazz UK Dec/Jan 2005

This is one of the most charming and unexpected releases of the season. Karen Street has evolved an entire vocabulary for the accordion that works beautifully in the jazz context without forfeiting the instrument’s awkward individuality. It hasn’t happened overnight as anyone has heard her work with Mike Westbrook, Tim Garland and others will know, but the firm confidence of this set establishes a whole new standard.

Dave Gelly - The Observer - 2004 - Accordion Crimes

The combination of Karen Street's lyrical compositions with her responsive and unique accordion playing is classy, spritely stuff.

Fiona Ord-Shrimpton June 12, 2015 all about jazz

Musicians who have given the accordion a genuine voice are rare, but Karen Street is undoubtedly among them.

Jazz UK

The real highlight of the instrumental side of this CD, and which alone makes it worth the price, is the accordion playing of Karen Street. Anyone who thinks of the accordion as just a crude "squeeze box" to accompany boozy singalongs, or a noise-generator for Red Army ensembles, or the musical equivalent of a bottle of French Dressing, really must hear Street’s playing: it is phenomenal. The very first reference I made in my listening notes, during Strafe Me (track 3), was "1st. time heard accord. clearly - very expressive instr!" By the time I’d got to The Streams of Lovely Lucienne (track 8), in which the accordion has a big solo, I was noting "as ever, beautifully articulated". That, and more - from touching mellifluousness to congested anger, whether intimating a fine-spun lyric or chomping away in the "rhythm section", the exertions of Karen Street’s arms and fingers were, quite literally, music to my ears.

Platterback, Mike and Kate Westbrook Paul Serotsky April 2002

Praise for Interchange

Although I was sorry to miss Guy Barker's star-studded Big Band with Georgie  which clashed with this event, I was delighted with this performance by one of the finest and most creatice jazz groups I've heard for a long time.

Leader, baritone player and catalyst Issie Barratt had a very busy Festival with workshops, seminars and guest appearances but I suspect this new band is particularly special as she hand-picked the ten musicians and even managed to attract Arts Council funding to commission and rehearse ten new works.

With a line up of flugelhorn (doubling trumpet and electronics) trombone, three saxophones (doubling on clarient, flute and violin) woice, accordion, cello, double bass (doubling vocals) and drums there was an enormous range of rich and colourful sounds and each one of the ten composers - many of them memberes of the band - produced a wealth of different combinations and layers of sound. From the beginning it was clear that this was a well prepared and carefully rehearsed band, well able to cope with the quickly changing moods, backgrounds and tempos, and solo after solo was enhanced by the brilliant ensemble work. There was evident pleasure in the performance from all the players and a wonderful group spirit which reached out to the small but very appreciative audience.

When thier new CD is out and the band fully launched on the international curcuit this could be one of the sensations of the year.

Peter Bevan Sage, Gateshead

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Reviews  Accordion Crimes

John Fordham, The Guardian,  Dec 2004

For all the broadening of what constitutes jazz instrumentation, the accordion still isn’t widely used, and is still considered a rarity. The UK’s Karen Street first surfaced in the jazz world in Tim Garland’s folk jazz band Lammas and on this set she commits her own compositions to jazz variations from a fine group featuring Stan Sulzmann, guitarist Mike Outram and bassist Fred Thelonious Baker.

Street is a superb textural player, an affecting composer and a thoughtful accompanist. Some of the music is folksy, some suggestive of an old Stan Getz jazz-samba, some is Kurt Weillian, but all of it is lyrical.

Sulzmann is in relaxed and inventive form smoking and flaring on the slowly gliding title track, hooting like a tenor-sax Johnny Hodges on the Ellington/Strayhorn piece Mount Harissa, shaping his narrative subtly in Getz-like mode on Which Way Up.

Jazz UK, Jan 2005

It’s always risky to call something a ‘first’, but I can’t think of any other jazz record with a line-up of accordion, tenor sax, guitar and bass. But that’s the group assembled by Karen Street, and it’s not only a unique sound, but features some fine playing by individuals who evidently rose to the occasion. Musicians who have given the accordion a genuine voice are rare, but Karen Street is undoubtedly among them.

Kenny Mathieson, Jazzwise Feb 2005

Karen Street lifted the title of her latest disc form the book of the same name by the novelist E.Annie Proulx, but some folks would have you believe that all accordion playing is an offence. Karen Street is nothing if not dedicated to her often maligned instrument, however, and her partners in crime - saxophonist Stan Sulzmann, guitarist Mike Outram, and bassist Fred Baker - provide excellent support for her inventions on the box. That combination of instruments works very effectively both in terms oftimbre and musical texture and in the evocation of mood. Although accordion is primarily regarded as a folk instrument in this country, she comes at the music with a jazz sensebility and a strong influence from both central European and South American styles on the instrument. She includes the Ellington-Strayhorn composition 'Mount Harissa' and one traditional tune, 'When a Knight Won His Spurs' alongside a half-dozen of her own atmospheric compositions.

Dave Gelly, The Observer, Dec 2004

This is one of the most charming and unexpected releases of the season. Karen Street has evolved an entire vocabulary for the accordion that works beautifully in the jazz context without forfeiting the instrument’s awkward individuality. It hasn’t happened overnight as anyone has heard her work with Mike Westbrook, Tim Garland and others will know, but the firm confidence of this set establishes a whole new standard.

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Django Queen's Hall, Edinburgh


The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra ended its 2017 Queen’s Hall concert series with a concert full of fun and exuberance as well as virtuosity. Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt’s music lends itself naturally to these qualities while also inviting the kind of soulful, sighing note reflection that featured soloist, guitar master Martin Taylor brought to probably Reinhardt’s most famous composition, Nuages, in a lovely arrangement by the orchestra’s alto saxophonist and clarinettist Martin Kershaw.

A good number of Reinhardt’s creations, along with tunes associated with him, were sequenced into medleys, mini suites in a way that allowed the music to change tempo and direction very effectively and brought out some startling, dynamic and ultra-smart ensemble work piloted by drummer Alyn Cosker, whose use of skulls and cowbell, harking back to the orchestral manoeuvres of the 1940s, was brilliantly and often comically theatrical without cheapening the impact.

Taylor was flanked by the marvellous Chris Garrick on violin and Karen Street on accordion in a side unit that could operate both independently of and beautifully and subtly in sync with the horns. If their playing on Taylor’s own Musette for a Magpie, with its French bar atmosphere, was bright and alive, then the way they swapped phrases on the brisk Django’s Rag was postively, in the favourite word of approval of another guitar hero, the recently departed Allan Holdsworth, gazeuse.

The bebopping Impromptu fizzed too and in contrast, Taylor and Street duetted with terrific sensitivity on Hymn a l’Amour before the concert finished with the SNJO horns processing around the auditorium while Taylor and orchestra director Tommy Smith co-led a cooking swing blues.

Reviews Finally... A Beginning


John Fordham Jazz UK Jan/Feb 2002

Accordionist Karen Street has provided all kinds of impressionistic undercurrents to a variety of British bands in recent years - groups as different as Tim Garland's folk-jazz band Lammas and the vigorous American/UK post bop band he toured with last year, or world-music singer Martha Lewis' ensemble - but this is her debut with her own song.

Street's playing leaves most of the instrument's traditional luggage behind while retaining it's evocative textures and faintly dolorous charm, and she's a fine improviser who clearly has her head and her fingers around the mechanics of jazz as well. Street is assisted here by a shrewdly-chosen pairing of Stan Sulzman's appropriately lyrical soprano saxophone and flute and the electric bass of Fred Thelonius Baker, the UK's own Steve Swallow. A promising solo career...finally beginning.

Kenny Mathieson The List Nov 2001

This is the self-produced debut album from accordionist Karen Street (not to be confused with the more folk-oriented accordionist, Karen Tweed), and a fine one it is.

Street is best known in jazz circles for her work with Mike Westbrook and Tim Garland. She is a highly resourceful player, but does not go in for shows of flashy virtuosity, preferring to concentrate on shaping and expressing her music. The compositions are all her own, and most of them are performed solo, although saxophonist Stan Sulzman and guitarist-bassist Fred Thelonious Baker help out on selected items.

Dave Gelly Observer 11 Nov 2001

Karen Street and the jazz world met each other for the first time about 10 years ago, when composer Mike Westbrook decided to add accordion to his Big Band. Street was already well established in other fields, so the experience didn't suddenly turn her into a jazz musician, but her playing proved so jazz friendly that she's kept up the connection. This is her first album. It includes bass guitarist Fred T. Baker and Stan Sulzman on several tracks, playing a set of original pieces that touch on jazz, folk and even tango in a unique and very attractive style.

Chris Parker The Tablet Nov 2001

Karen Street, an accordionist who cut her jazz teeth with Mike Westbrook's orchestra and, more recently, with Tim Garland's jazz/folk outfit Lammas, could be said to fit into the sort of niche occupied in Britain by the various denizens of the Babel label. Her debut CD, "Finally ... a Beginning" (ATKS 0101 ), demonstrates not only Street's entirely successful adoption of an idiom initially foreign to her, but also a highly accomplished compositional gift.

Judiciously interspersing solo pieces with duos involving either Fred T. Baker (on bass and acoustic guitars) or Stan Sulzmann (on soprano saxophone and flute), Street proves herself to be a thoughtful but vigorous soloist, intelligently exploiting all the considerable textural possibilities of her instrument with great aplomb. Her interaction with both Baker and Sulzmann is as lively as it is subtle, but it is her solo work that really impresses; her tribute to the band one on master, Astor Piazzolla, I Dance for You, for instance, is imbued with all the passion and elegance that characterize the work of its late dedicatee.

Andrew Vine Yorkshire Post Feb 2002

Followers of the contemporary British Jazz scene might well have caught Karen Street playing in bands led by Mike Westbrook and Tim Garland. She plays accordion, and this debut CD is a thoughtful affair of quiet beauty in which her solo pieces often carry flavours of folk music. There's an intimate plaintive quality. Guitarist Fred T Baker and saxophonist Stan Sulzman take a bow on duets with Street. It's an appealing album.

Gail Brand - The Musician March 2002

Writing, recording and producing a CD is up there with moving house in terms of hard work and commitment. Karen Street's hard work and commitment has produced a debut solo accordion work which seems to come straight from the heart.

This feels like a personal journey for this accomplished and well-respected musician (work ranging from Mike Westbrook to Phil Robson Octet and sax player in Saxtet). As the title of the CD and eponymous first track suggests - this work has been a long time coming and this is reflected in the intensity and intelligent improvisational language of her music. Stan Sulzman (flute & soprano sax) join Karen on five out of the ten tracks and their musical dialogue is engaging and artful.

The compositions range from hints at sunny nostalgia in Water Garden and Child's Play to a dark riskier dynamic In the Ballroom with the Rope - deftly bringing Cluedo and accordion playing together at last! The energy and passion is strong and the musical skill is of a very high order on all tracks which makes this a very listenable work.

Accordion World Jan/Feb 2002

To record a CD entirely of your own compositions is quite an intrepid thing for any musician to do, unless you already have the fame of an Elton John or a Lennon & McCartney. Karen Street, on her debut recording, has resisted the temptation for the 'play safe' option of recording pieces that are well known, and has recorded ten of her own compositions.

These self compositions, however, reflect the artist's long association with the accordion world, with jazz musicians and with what is termed 'world music' and the music radiates her brilliance both as an accordionist and as a composer for the instrument.

Karen indulges herself with some very modernistic, free wheeling music in which her considerable musical talent explores new frontiers. The occasional addition of some very tasteful guitar, saxophone and flute adds to the texture of the compositions and provides relief to the otherwise solo accordion playing.

Karen Street's debut CD is an adventurous and imaginative exploration of the artist's inner self. Superb playing. Favorite tracks? The compelling, insistent rhythms of Horseshoe Bay and Full Circle made these pieces especially enjoyable.

Reviews  Another Story

Chris Parker Jan 2009

Karen Street has been playing accordion since she was seven, but credits her involvement in Mike and Kate Westbrook's various projects for interesting her in jazz; onthis album,she also plays saxophone and arranges material ranging from standards ('Bye Bye Blackbird', 'Get Happy', 'I Could Write a Book') and the odd samba ('How Insensitive') to in-band originals for various combinations of bassist Fred T. Baker, percussionist Andy Tween and singer Sara Colman.

The first-mentioned is the crucial presence, playing both bass and acoustic guitar, and generally providing tasteful, elegant accompaniment for both Street's lead instruments. Street and Baker have been playing together since the beginning of the millennium, and their resultant musical rapport is particularly notable on a sparky duo visit to 'Bye Bye Blackbird', but throughout, they mesh gracefully, whether they're providing a subtly funky backdrop to Colman's version of 'What's Love Got to Do with It?' or to her anti-female-exploitation song 'Place to Be'.

Street it is, however, who generally draws the ear, with her neat but cogent solos on both accordion and saxophone and the textural variety of her accompanying playing; overall, this is a quietly accomplished, pleasingly varied album.

Andrew Vine: Yorkshire Post

There haven't been many accordion players who made their mark in jazz, so Karen Street is a member of a rare breed. She's a terrific player, and this is an immensely enjoyable album. There's a striking musical partnership with guitarist and bassist Fred T Baker, and good vocals from up-and-coming singer Sara Colman. But it's the instrumentals that really catch the ear. Street's fluid solos on How Insensitive, Blue Daniel and Paradise Circus are splendid, and there's an upbeat feeling about the programme. Delightfully different.

Reviews  Live Performance

Cheddar Baptist Church

We really enjoyed the concert the other night and have had loads of ecstatic comments! It would be lovely if you came to play in Cheddar Baptist Church again... It was a very special evening.

Chris Yates, Jazz North East (CY)

Karen Street’s Accordion Crimes demonstrated an impressively different kind of approach to jazz during a visit to Newcastle in October. Virtuoso accordionist Street displayed a gripping inventiveness, her playing complemented by the distinctive tenor saxophone of Ben Castle, the guitar lines of Mike Outram and the pulsating electric bass of Fred ‘Thelonious’ Baker. Their ‘Mount Harissa’ from Duke Ellington’s ‘Far East Suite’ was a masterpiece of tranquil exploration and the band’s original and reharmonised hymns were very distinctive.

Roy Stevens, White Swan, Stratford-upon-Avon

The accordion is still considered a rarity on the jazz instrumentation front, so when the Karen Street Quartet was booked for the White Swan may of the diehards of Stratford Jazz approached the gig with some trepidation. Karen, so admirably supported by Ben Castle, Mike Outram and Fred Baker, quickly won them over. The quartet has a unique and very expressive sound, full of passion, often folksy but always producing lyrical jazz of the highest quality. Most of the material consisted of Karen’s own atmospheric originals, beautifully arranged and interpreted by a band of musicians clearly at the top of their game.

Jazz with a difference! What a thoroughly engaging evening.