10th Bray Jazz Festival
Equally impressive was Brouwer on acoustic guitar: his technique was never less than arresting, though never showy. African, Spanish and classical Indian colors emanated from his strings with subtlety and tremendous passion in turn. At times his guitar sounded like a kora, then a berimbau. Like Italian maestro Antonio Forcione, Brouwer maximizes his guitar's percussive possibilities, tapping and rapping the body, shaking it to prolong and accentuate the resonance of the notes, and running a wetted finger up and down the body to produce a Brazilian cavaqhuino sound.
Sandip Bhattacharya provided rhythmic drive to the music on tabla and occasional gourd, and traded konokol vocals with Brouwer. This is a trio in total control of its musical environment whose strength lies in the musical empathy between the three musicians. Its joyous, captivating set was rewarded with a deserved standing ovation.
Securing suitable venues has been a challenge for the festival organizers since the festival's inception, but the construction of the Mermaid Arts Centre in 2002 has succeeded in providing the festival and the town itself with a small but acoustically sound theatre. An intriguing double bill of some contrast brought the theatre to life on Friday afternoon.
Morla, consisting of guitarist Simon Jermyn and saxophonist Sean Og, emerged from the Dublin creative collective, Bottleneck, and have created their very own space in the contemporary Irish music scene. An adventurous duo, Jermyn and Og utilize electronics and their respective instruments to create atmospheric, dynamic soundscapes. Their thirty-five minute set was a continuous improvised piece pleasingly called "Three More Sweets and then a Treat;" starting from a meditative guitar loop, layers of sustained sound, electronic drone, and programmed percussion created dense walls of sound over which Og played minimal, dreamy saxophone.
Morla's out-of-the-box thinking, clever use of contrasting textures and mating of sound and music recalled the work of great American creative duo, Chris Schlarb and Tom Steck's "I Heart Lung" an undeniably powerful and at times beautiful improvisation.
There was barely enough time to sink a pint before Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick's quartet took to the Mermaid stage and rewarded those present with a performance that left little doubt in anyone's mind that we were watching a major new voice on the contemporary jazz scene. Although Eick has been around for a decade or so, his first solo album The Door (ECM, 2008) fully revealed his songwriting talents and his quite personal trumpet-playing style.
Eick's rhythm section of Auden Erilen on bass and Rune Arnerson on drums provided deft interplay, with the animated Arnerson particularly impressive. The piano stool saw Eple Trio's Andreas Ulvo providing tasteful accompaniment and counterpoint to Eick's long, lyrical notes. The concert got underway with the melodic "December," which segued rather seamlessly into "Williamsburg, power and minimalism combined." The elegiac "Cologne Blues" took on a somewhat epic quality live; the classical overtones of Auden Eriien's bass solo and the penetration of Eick's trumpet lines were quite captivating. When Ulvo switched to fender Rhodes, with Arnerson lifting the tempo and Eick adding percussion, the song grew into an extended fusion-style exploration of a 70s Miles intensity. Two new compositions suggested that Eick is looking towards new musical horizons, and the strong vamps, deep grooves and dramatic melodies won the approval of the crowd and whetted the appetite for whatever music he produces in the future.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the 10th Bray Jazz festival was the sheer variety of music on offer. Each of the three evenings festival-goers had the chance to dance to some pretty intoxicating rhythms at the World Stage in the club attached to Katie Gallagher's bar on the sea-front.
On Friday night Brazilian six-piece band Orquestra do Fuba rocked the dance floor with its funky, samba jazz. On Saturday, Irish band Yurodny stirred the crowd with its infectious Balkan rhythms reminiscent of Romanian group Fanfare Ciocarlia, and provoked an outbreak of Irish dancing from some Bray girls. But arguably the biggest hit of the World Stage was the pulsating African blues of electric guitarist Justin Adams and Gambian griot musician Juldeh Camara. Adams has long been interested in the rhythms of West Africa and the Middle East and their strong connection to the blues, and has produced Taureg band Tinariwan.
Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara