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 Guildhall 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, Mulatu Astatke, Gilad Atzmon, Neil Cowley, Julian Ferraretto, Robert Mitchell, and Alice Zawadski. Shirley is involved in a variety of projects, which include her own trio, with John Crawford on piano, and Demi Garcia Sabat on drums, a duo with pianist Robert Mitchell, Issie Barratts’ Interchange Dectet, Iraqi-folk based Sawa trio, and a free 5tet featuring James Arben, Alexander Hawkins, Liran Donin and Jon Scott. Shirley teaches Improvisation and Jazz at the Royal College of Music and is Head of Performance at City University.
James Arben is a multi-instrumentalist. He plays all saxophones, flute, oboe, bass clarinet, clarinet, vocals and piano, and is a versatile creative musician who is comfortable in vast array of musical situations. He studied at Oxford University and later the Guildhall and Trinity Schools of Music, studying variously with Don Rendell, Jean Toussaint, and Tim Garland. His extensive professional work includes MDing for Mulatu Astakte. He has also worked with The Heliocentrics, The Hackney Colliery Band, Family Atlantica, London Concert Choir, London Vocal Project, Molotov Jukebox, The O’Jays, DJ Gaslamp Killer, Down to the Bone, Mary Wilson, Brazilian rapper Criolo, Talib Kweli, Snowboy, Tony Visconti, Jim Stapley, Robin Jones Latin Underground Orchestra, King Salsa, Steve Waterman, NYJO, David Axelrod, The Kooks, Maxi Priest, Steve Brookstein, Digby Fairweather, Rufus Reid, Byron Wallen, Finn Peters, Alexander Hawkins Large Ensemble, The Glen Miller Orchestra, Saravah Soul, Miss Hoodoo and the Delta Boys, The Black Jesus Experience , Joe Stilgoe, Big Band Metheny, David Okumu, Seb Rochford ,Tom Herbert, Steve Nieve, Camille O’Sullivan, Jolie Holland, Terry Edwards , St Etienne, Roy Hemmings, The Spike Orchestra, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, Alex Kapranos, Sam Amidon, Jason Lindner and Marcus Gilmore.