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Limerick Jazz Festival 2013

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Downstairs in the Hunt Museum Café the saxophone quartet Blue Mask entertained the lunch time crowd with harmonically arresting arrangements of tunes by Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
, Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
1932 - 1975
arranger
and Mel Torme
Mel Torme
Mel Torme
b.1925
vocalist
, in addition to a couple of originals. Soprano saxophonist Markus Krabee, alto saxophonist Sharron Burns, tenor saxophonist Helen Haserfuss and baritone saxophonist Patrick Olsen, all played with skill, humor, and a certain pizzazz. With a little more risk, a few more original arrangements—and a little bit of luck—they could be Ireland's answer to Brass Jaw.

Saturday evening's concert saw a welcome return to Limerick after an absence of ten years of singer Christine Tobin
Christine Tobin
Christine Tobin
b.1963
vocalist
. It might have been tempting for Irish-born Tobin to revisit Sailing to Byzantium (Trail Belle, 2012), her soulful musical interpretations of the poetry of W. B. Yeats, but Tobine had other irons in the fire.

The London-based singer's show in the old Belltable theatre was entitled A Thousand Kisses Deep, and was a personal, sensuous tribute to singer Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen
b.1934
vocalist
. Backed beautifully by guitarist Phil Robson and bassist Dave Whitford, Tobin mixed up Cohen classics with a jazz standard or two, but the show began with singer Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
b.1943
vocalist
's "The Priest"—a rarely covered tune from Mitchell's album Ladies of the Canyon (Reprise, 1970).

Tobin injected warmth and a sense of celebration into Cohen compositions "Dance Me to the End of Love," "1000 Kisses Deep" and "Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye." Even on the mostly bleak "Everybody Knows" with the cutting lyric "everybody got this broken feeling that their father or their dog just died," Tobin mined the lyric's poignancy with a poet's instinct and gently played up the humor that lies just beneath the surface of a Cohen song co-written by long-time collaborator Sharon Robinson.

Tobin's feel for the blues colored "Take This Waltz" and "Tower of Song." On the latter, Robson unleashed the staccato riff from Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
/Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
1932 - 2007
keyboard
's "It's About That Time," ushering in Tobin who seized on the familiar melody. It was an unexpected and dramatic conclusion to Cohen's Dylan-esque slice of self reflection.

Another song that has stood the test of time was Bobby Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe"; Tobin's rendition was faithful to Gentry's delightfully infectious Southern gothic tale, though her vocal impression of a blues harmonica and Robson's country-blues solo gave the performance a personal seal. "Come Rain or Come Shine" burned with bebop intensity while Cohen's "Suzanne" was completely transformed with an almost danceable groove and some firey playing from Robson.

A wonderful trio performance was capped with singer Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
's "God Bless The Child," with Tobin taking this old pearl and making it shine anew. Tobin's recording of Cohen's songs is due for release some time in 2014.

Day 4: Crisis Point

The finale to Limerick Jazz 2013 came in the shape of big band jazz in the city's most famous live venue, Dolan's Warehouse. Ireland boasts several very good big bands and Crisis Point is one of the best. The members of the 17-piece big band hail from different points on the compass so understandably, given the limited rehearsal time as a unit there were a few rough edges here and there. On the whole, however, the arrangements by keyboardist Bryan Meehan and trombonist Paul Dunlea of material old and new were vibrant and engaging.

Cole Porter
Cole Porter
Cole Porter
1891 - 1964
composer/conductor
's "Love for Sale" and soul/funk singer James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
vocalist
's "I Feel Good" got the show off to a flying start. Saxophonist Larry McKenna and vibraphonist Tony Miceli added heft to the big band sound on the Dunlea composition "Corner Tree." The two Philadelphian musicians then played as a quartet with drummer John Daley and bassist Peter Hanagan on Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz's much loved jazz standard "Alone Together." McKenna and Miceli also were in fine form on the duet "Dreamsville," with the saxophonist's exquisite phrasing a real treat to behold.

The first set finished with a big band take on the bebop classic "Cherokee" and a powerful arrangement of the James Bond theme to Skyfall, sung by the impressive Aoife Doolan. Her voice rose above the roar of the big band and earned appreciative applause from the full house.

Guests abounded in the second half. First up was Nigel Mooney, one of Ireland's finest blues guitarists with a voice to match. On "Alright, Okay, You Win" by Mayme Watts and Sid Wyche and Memphis Slim
Memphis Slim
Memphis Slim
1915 - 1988
piano
's "Every day I Have the Blues" Mooney and Crisis Point paid swinging tribute to singer Joe Williams
Joe Williams
Joe Williams
1918 - 1999
vocalist
and pianist Count Basie
Count Basie
Count Basie
1904 - 1984
piano
's orchestra, who recorded these tunes together on the rocking Count Basie Swings, Joe Williams Sings (Verve, 1956).

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