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Live Reviews

Sligo Jazz Project 2013: Days 4-6

By Published: August 1, 2013
Marshall Gilkes' ensemble name, "The Sort Ofs," was inspired by the inimitable Homer Simpson. If the students had been 'sort of' confident at the start of the week, demonstrating a little Homerian clumsiness, then by week's end they too had grown into a tight, confident sextet. Vocalist Louie McDonald possesses a fine voice and is a singer to watch out for. Mention must be made of classically trained pianist Martin Devek. Devek had struggled with the jazz idiom early on in the week but his openness allied with determination to acquire the vocabulary and grammar of jazz saw him make progress—unspectacular, but perhaps genuinely significant.

One of very few original tunes heard all week was pianist Frank McPhail's "Changes," which Ian Shaw's ensemble "Shaw Thing" executed admirably. Kenny Werner, rooting from the wings, was obviously delighted with his ensemble's renditions of 'Blackbird," "You Don't Know What Love is" and "Now's the Time."

Tropicana Musica/Wrap Up

The final concert of a week that had flown by was by Tropicana Musica, a group of musicians/dancers from Congo, Zimbabwe, France, and Ireland, whose mixture of soukous, makossa and rumba coaxed all-comers onto the dance floor. At the start of Tropicana Musica's concert the dancing was enthusiastic, but a little rigid; by concert's end the body language of the dancers had changed —more relaxed, more flowing, and more attuned.

"We try to mix everything," said guest singer Adrisha after the concert. Adrisha is an asylum seeker. "There's a problem in my country," he stated simply. Adrisha arrived in Ireland four years ago, with no English but with a valuable skill—music. "My way to integrate myself into Irish society is my music," he explained. "It's what I know, what I can do. I listen to all the music—sometimes jazz, sometimes Irish music. I sometimes go to Irish music sessions to learn. I want to mix everything." For Adrisha, jazz is not a strange idiom: "No, in some drums the beat is like African rhythms,' he said.

Though a French speaker, Adrisha isn't thinking about a move to France, "I want to stay here. I like Ireland. I like Irish people, they're very kind. I prefer to stay here and I prefer to stay in Sligo. Sligo is like my second land."

In Adrisha's story of flight and hope, and a strong desire for rootedness there are echoes of the Irish who abandoned Ireland for America in the second half of the 19th century. In his openness to all music and his desire to integrate, there are echoes too of the story of jazz. As jazz has traveled through time and across borders it has found new homes where it has absorbed new language and found new forms of expression.

The SJP is part of that history. For Eddie Lee and his team, bringing together people regardless of race, nationality, gender, age, background or ability is in itself a success. Nurturing musical learning through notions of respect, tolerance and communication is embedded in the SJP ethos, and it's this philosophy that makes for such a relaxed, happy environment at the SJP.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the SJP though, is not musical at all, but engendering in the students the motivation to do better, and to some degree, in contributing to increased levels of confidence, greater self-belief and a renewed sense of personal worth. If that's so, then sitting in a primary school chair for a week will seem like a small sacrifice indeed.

Photo Credits

Page 1, 4: Aminah Hughes
All other photos: Ian Patterson

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