10th Bray Jazz Festival
Camara's ritti, a one-stringed instrument played with a bow like a fiddle, produced wonderful flowing sounds, accompanied by the gritty electric blues and grinding rock 'n' roll rhythms of Adams and the percussion of Martyn Barker. The cocktail was a hypnotic and powerful one and the trance-like Bo Diddley rhythms, Camara's stirring vocals and riti virtuosity was over all too quickly.
The organizers of the Bray Jazz Festival have done their best to bring the festival to the people of the town, and a dozen bars and hotels around town were offering free jazz of various shades over the weekend. The Royal Hotel was the venue for the two free early shows on the last two days and singer Carmel McCreagh led her tight band through a set of torch songs including her own compositions to a packed house on Sunday. The day before The Hot Club of Dublin played a rousing set of the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.
Guitarist Fintan Gilligan played Reinhardt to Russian violinist Oleg Ponomarev's Grappelli, and the level of musicianship from the two was outstanding. Father and son team of John Gilligan on double bass and Daniel Gilligan on rhythm guitar kept impeccable, swinging time and Cyrille Laurence joined the band for several numbers on tenor saxophone, bringing a lovely Stan Getz lyricism to the music. Fintan Gilligan reminded the audience of the current credit crunch: 'We've got CDs for sale at the back, some Billy Joel, a couple of Queen ones;' older brother John concurred: "We've also got a set of van tires, slightly worn, but times are tough folks.' The gags were corny, but the music was anything but, and an impressive reminder that the music of Django Rheinhart and Stephane Grapelli, when in the right hands, swings like no other.
There are guitars and then there are guitars; if you thought Pat Metheny's 42-stringed Picasso was unusual, then you would be amazed by the invention of Sardinian guitarist Paolo Angeli, as were all who witnessed his captivating performance in the Town Hall on Saturday afternoon. If Metheny's custom-built guitar is a Picasso, then Angeli's creation is most definitely a Dali.
To a conventional acoustic guitar Angeli has added the machine head of a cello from which strings run parallel above the guitar's own. Eight more strings run across the mouth of the body perpendicular to the conventional strings. Two motors inside the body of the guitar can be activated to rotate tiny strings, which rotate furiously against the main strings producing a high-pitched trilling noise like a harp on 78 rpm. Two blocks of wood hold a series of foot pedals which activate a row of hammers on the base of the body to strike the base of the strings. A couple of large springs protrude surreally from the body like antlers and are used percussively. The instrument also has fourteen direct outputs, and the spaghetti of wires running to his tuner and effects box (added to the high-backed Tudor chair) gave the whole apparatus the look of an electric chair for guitarists.
The multi-instrumentalist studied jazz guitar in Bologna at the end of the '80s as well as ethnomusicology, and he is not short of technique. His playing is less about technique however, than about sound; to this end Angeli is indebted to guitarist Fred Frith, and his improvised performance in the old Town Hall drew from his album tessuti:paolo angeli plays frith & bjork (ReR Megacorp, 2007)
The former guitarist with Henry Cow had a significant effect on the Angeli after a collaboration between Frith and the Eva Kant ensemble in which Angeli played and which realized the Frith albumPacifica.(Tzadik, 1998). Frith's application of found objects to alter the sound of his strings has been adapted by Angeli, and he employed miniature clothes pegs, train tickets, batteries and plastic strips to this end. A sink drainer-plug placed under the strings brought an oud-like quality to the playing and at the beginning and end of the concert he used a plastic bag under his bare foot as a gentle percussion instrument.
Angeli used a bow to maximum effect, not only on the strings, but on the springs too. A flick of a switch would amplify his instrument and depending on the direction the music was taking he would play electric guitar or electric cello, layering sounds, searching for sounds. The hour-long improvisation which started from compositions by Frith and Bjork had the elegance of chamber music in certain passages and the intensity of King Crimson in others, and there was a touch of Sardinian folk added to the mix.