Down With Jazz 2013
"African Trip" showcased Nielsen's highly rhythmic approach to acoustic guitar chugging chords dovetailed with flamenco-esque rasgeuos and improvisational flurries. "Rigby Sketches," from Nielson's CD Acoustic Sound Recipes (Self Produced, 2011), featured an extended guitar passage that illustrated the guitarist's capacity to captivate through shifting dynamics that didn't rely on a constant cascade of notesspace was an important component of Nielsen's sonic fabric.
Jazz standards such as Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and Coltrane's "Giant Steps" were remolded to Nielsen's design, with kernels of the original melodies riding on waves of the guitarist's imagination. The former tune featured an exciting exchange between guitarist and pianist Greg Fenten while the latter saw Nielsen switch to electric. Drummer James Mackin was a subtly dynamic presence throughout. Even when plugged in and in experimental mode Nielsen's improvisation was more about texturestretching notes out and steering feedback like a sonic sculptor.
In contrast, Mooney's set drew on Chicago blues and vocal jazz/R&B of an older vintage. Highlighting songs from his album The Bohemian Mooney (LYTE Records, 2013) Mooney's band of pianist Johnny Taylor, bassist Dan Bodwell and drummer Shane O'Donnovan provided energetic support in a highly polished collective performance.
Mooney's clean, singing guitar lines and his vocal delivery to boot owed a debt to B.B. King and the band drew from the blues legend's repertoire with a rocking version of "Baby Don't You Want a Man like Me." The highlight of the set was "Poinciana"; Taylor's lightly dancing piano lines and O'Donnovan's crisp drumming paid homage to pianist Ahmad Jamal's trio, for whom the tune has become a signature piece over the past fifty years.
Bodwell's fast-walking bass propelled the group through a swinging take on Cole Porter's "I'm in Love" and a tune evocative of Georgie Fame rounded off a polished set with Mooney and company paying brief tribute to Weather Report via a rendition of "Birdland"'s closing theme.
Rain and a drop in temperature dashed any temporarily-held illusions that Meeting House Square was like a piazza in the Mediterranean, but closing act Yurodny 's vibrant Balkan rhythms raised spirits and stirred the blood. Alto saxophonist Nick Roth's multi- national nine-piece little-big band featured cello, three violinists, bass, drums, accordion and pan flute. Violinists Oleg Pomomarev and Cora Venus Luny, accordionist/percussionist Francesco Turrisi and Iulian Pusca on pan flute stood out as soloists, though the strength of Yurodny lay in the pulsating collective voice.
A good portion of the crowd was soon on its feet pogoing and spinning to the heady rhythms. A can-can snaked its way around the square as others own-thinged with varying degrees of style and co-ordination in front of the stage. They were just the sort of shenanigans that brought Father Conefrey sand his righteous followers onto the streets of Mohill in a fit or moral outrage all those decades ago. Tut tut.
The man behind Down With Jazz and emcee for the three days, the Improvised Music Company's Gerry Godley, turned his hand to weather forecasting: "Things are looking better tomorrow," he told the crowd. We should have thirty degrees. That's fifteen in the morning and fifteen in the afternoon." By the time Day 2 of Down With Jazz got under way at 7:30 in the evening it was a lot less than fifteen degrees and cold rain slid off the retractable canopy roof over Meeting House Square.
Given the good summer that Ireland has enjoyed it seemed odd to say the least that Down With Jazz wasn't held two or three weeks earlier in decent weather. Considerable money was invested in creating one of Dublin's iconic recreational spaces and it would be time equally well spent if the Temple Bar Trustees had a rethink on events scheduling where the interests of the paying public come first.