Christine Tobin

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Christine Tobin
Born Ireland
Genres Contemporary jazz/folk.
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, composer
Instruments Singer
Years active 1995–
Labels Traile Belle Records, Babel Label.
Associated acts Lammas

Christine Tobin is an Irish born vocalist and composer from Dublin who has been part of the London jazz and improvising scene since the second half of the 1980s. She has been influenced by a diverse range of singers and writers including Betty Carter, Bessie Smith, Leonard Cohen, Olivier Messiaen, Miles Davis and poets WB Yeats, Paul Muldoon and Eva Salzman. She has established a reputation as a unique presence on the jazz scene with original songs, style and interpretative or original lyrics.[1]


Tobin began singing seriously in her early 20s. She discovered jazz through hearing the Joni Mitchell album Mingus, which led her to purchase the Charles Mingus album Mingus Ah Um and then other jazz albums.[2] She moved to London in 1987 and sang in a band with Jean Toussaint, Jason Rebello, Alec Dankworth and Mark Taylor before studying jazz at the Guildhall School of Music in 1988 and 1989.[3] While at Guildhall, she formed a band with pianist/professor Simon Purcell, double bassist Steve Watts and drummer Phil Allen. Purcell encouraged Tobin to write lyrics for his tunes and set her on the path to writing her own material. She took a break from singing in 1990 to study anthropology at Goldsmiths College for two years.[3]

Tobin was a singer with the band Lammas for 10 years, led by saxophonist Tim Garland and guitarist/poet Don Paterson. In 1993 she formed a new band with pianist Huw Warren, bassist Steve Watts and drummer Roy Dodds, recording the first two albums, Aliliu and Yell of the Gazelle, of seven on the Babel Label with them.[3] She then met guitarist Phil Robson with whom she has formed a strong musical relationship.[3] Her album sleeves are usually designed by Gee Vaucher and she has also worked with other members of Last Amendment including Penny Rimbaud.

During 2008, she toured England performing her album Secret Life of a Girl, her first since Romance and Revolution in 2004 and the seventh to be released on the Babel Label, with her band of pianist Liam Noble, cellist Kate Shortt, guitarist Phil Robson, bassist Dave Whitford, percussionist Thebe Lipere and drummer Simon Lea.[1] She later won the Best Vocalist Award at the BBC Jazz Awards 2008.[4]

In 2010 Tobin released a CD Tapestry Unravelled, a duo with pianist Liam Noble. This is mostly the songs from Carole King's 1971 Tapestry album with one Tobin original, Closing time.

In 2012 Tobin released Sailing to Byzantium, a critically acclaimed[5] album of her settings of the poems of W.B. Yeats. Jazzwise magazine reviewed the album and said "Christine Tobin has created an unqualified masterpiece."

The BBC Music Magazine gave it a 5*****review and in a 4**** review MOJO wrote Christine Tobin really transcends glib genre-fication. Her expressive range acknowledges finely acquired folk, jazz and 20th-century classical influences, which already sets her apart. And everything is shot through with an unmistakable refinement, free-spirited earthiness and giddy romanticism.

In 2014 Tobin released A Thousand Kisses Deep, an album of Leonard Cohen songs. The Irish Times said "A lesser singer might be over-shadowed by the darkness of Cohen's words. But Tobin invests these songs with their full meaning, and even finds the odd glimmer of hope where none was formerly apparent"

The Guardian **** "Gorgeous, affecting and deeply human"

Winner of Jazz Vocalist of the Year in the 2014 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.[6]

Other nominees in this category were Norma Winstone, Lauren Kinsella and Zara McFarlane.

The winner, chosen by judging members of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) in Parliament, was announced at the awards ceremony which took place at the House of Commons, Terrace Pavilion on Tuesday 13 May 2014.

Other endeavours[edit]

She is also a promoter, running for just over a year in 2005 a club at the Progress Bar in Tufnell Park and as a director of the Vortex Jazz Club in Dalston.

She promotes Jazz at the Westcoast[7] in Margate, Kent.


As leader/solo[edit]

  • Aililiu (Babel, 1995)
  • Yell of the Gazelle (Babel, 1996)
  • House of Women (Babel, 1998)
  • Deep Song (Babel, 2000)
  • You Draw The Line (Babel, 2003)
  • Romance And Revolution (Babel, 2004)
  • Secret Life of a Girl (Babel, 2008)
  • Tapestry Unravelled (Trail Belle Records, 2010)
  • Sailing to Byzantium (Trail Belle Records, 2012)
  • A Thousand Kisses Deep (Trail Belle Records 2014)

As guest performer[edit]

  • What am I Here For? (Don Rendell, 1993)
  • Winter Truce (and Homes Blaze) (Django Bates, 1995)
  • Shepherd Wheel (Peter Fairclough, 1995)
  • Lovers And Strangers (Hans Koller, 2001)
  • Stability (Clark Tracey, 2001)
  • Savage UtopiaCrass Agenda, 2004 (Babel Label/Exitstencil)
  • Penny Rimbaud's 'How?' – Crass Agenda, 2004 (Babel Label)
  • You're My Thrill – Peter Herbert, 2004 (Between The Lines)
  • Remembering Nick Drake (Nick Smart's Black Eyed Dog, 2005)
  • Introducing Barry Green (Barry Green, 2006)
  • Six Strings & The Beat (Phil Robson, 2008)
  • BBC Jazz Awards 2008 (Compilation on which she sings Camille)

With Lammas[edit]

  • Lammas (Lammas 1991)
  • This Morning (1993)
  • The Broken Road (1995)
  • Sourcebook (1997)
  • Sea Changes (1999)


  • Out With Paganism and all that Jazz (2012) an award winning documentary for RTE Lyric FM presented by Tobin.[8]

On DVD[edit]

  • Red, White & Blues (2003) A film about the 60's UK blues boom directed by Mike Figgis. Christine performs with Humphrey Lyttelton
  • Derby Jazz Week – Promo DVD cover mount from Jazzwise magazine. Contains interview and performance of Brandy and Scars


  • Best Vocalist Award – BBC Jazz Awards 2008.
  • British Composer Award (Dec 2012) for Best Contemporary Jazz Composition BASCA.
  • Grant from the PRS Foundation for music 2012.
  • Parliamentary Jazz Awards – Shortlisted for Best Album and Jazz Musician of the Year 2013
  • Parliamentary Jazz Awards – Winner of Jazz Vocalist of the Year 2014
  • Herald Angel Award for A Thousand Kisses Deep at Edinburgh Fringe 2013


  1. ^ a b "Christine Tobin to tour Secret Life of a Girl". Jazzwise (London: Jazzwise Publication Ltd) (118): 5. April 2008. 
  2. ^ Prange, Carina (3 August 2000). "Christine Tobin – "Singing as a learning process to get the right balance"". Jazzdimensions. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d May, Chris (2 January 2006). "Christine Tobin: Romancing the Radical". All About Jazz. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  4. ^ "Tobin wins best BBC jazz vocalist". BBC News (BBC). 22 July 2008. Retrieved 17 January 2009. 
  5. ^ "CD of the Year: Christine Tobin – Sailing to Byzantium". ( 27 December 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Jazz Vocalist of the Year in the 2014 Parliamentary Jazz Awards". Jazz Services (Jazz Services). 1 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  7. ^ "The Westcoast in Margate". 
  8. ^ "Out With Paganism…And All That Jazz". UCB Media Group (RTÉ Lyric FM). 7 December 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 

External links[edit]