Down With Jazz 2013
Kenevey' suave delivery owed much to Mel Torme and Harry Connick Junior but it was his technical ability that wowed the crowd. Short, bop-inflected scats and sustained notes peppered original arrangements of "This is It" and old favorites like Cole Porter's "Get out of Town," Rogers & Hart's "This Can't Be Love" and John Hendricks's "Cloudburst." On the latter, taken at breakneck speed, Kenevey's articulation and phrasing was impressive.
Pianist Johnny Taylor, bassist Damien Evans and drummer Kevin Brady lent Kenevey buoyant support and enjoyed plenty of solo spotlight. Only on singer/songwriter Paul Simon's "Train in the Distance" did Kenevey veer away from the standards songbook and the diversion provided a set highlight. One of Simon's lines seemed particularly appropriate for Kenevey, who gave up a career as a software consultant to follow his dream of becoming a jazz singer: "The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains."
No jazz festival is complete without a taste of the blues. Veteran guitarist Ed Deane duly obliged with a lively set that drew from several decades of the blues, mixed up with a little rock 'n' roll and R&B. Keyboardist Joe Zawinul' "Mercy Mercy Mercy"a Billboard number one hit in 1967opened the show, with Deane carving out a soulful solo.
An up-tempo version of "The Blues Ain't Nothin'" bristled with energy and may have been inspired by guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. Saxophonist Richard Buckley's sinewy solo tied the blues knot with jazz. Deane certainly didn't hide his influences and paid homage to Rolling Stones on a grinding R&B version of "The Last Time," with drummer Noel Bridgeman and bassist John Quearney laying down an infectious groove.
Deane switched to slide on Mississippi Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move" and on a slow-burning version of pianist Buddy Johnson's 1945 composition "Since I Fell for You." Deane's slide fairly howled on singer Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues" and cried like a train whistle on a refreshingly original take on singer Van Morrison's "Baby Please Don't Go." Unlike McDowell, Deane never picked cotton, nor did he have to use a beef rib bone to play slide, but he's been playing this music with passion for forty five years, which surely counts as dues well and truly paid.
A short musical interlude of sorts took place in the middle of the audiencea mini happening if you will. The duo Bebop and Rock Steady- -multi-instrumentalist Tom Walsh and drummer Shane Latimer gave a mini improvisational performance that was short on cohesion but high on energy and laughs. The duo provided a genuine festival moment to savor, interacting with the crowd in a beautifully madcap vignette that was bizarrely entertaining.
Three bands that had featured at the heady all-dayer Workin II: Jazz Irish Showcase in Dublin in May followed. Butter, fronted by vocalist Georgia Cusack, played a grooving New Soul set that drew on repertoire old and new alike. Saxophonist Chris Engel and trumpeter Lee Thompson lent harmonic depth and Johnny Taylor's sensitive Rhodes keyboard work underpinned everything.
The Multiverse, led by Niwel Tsumbu, gave an intense demonstration of guitar trio dynamics. Congolese guitarist Tsumbu's unique style drew from his African roots and a jazz-rock aesthetic all of his own design. Bassist Peter Erdei and drummer Shane O'Donovan made for a powerful rhythm section and one completely in tune with Tsumbu's explorations. Extended compositions "Myth" and "Space Junk" lay somewhere between jam and through-composed discipline.
Whatever the degree of improvisation, there was no escaping the energy and excitement generated by this outstanding trio. There was just a hint of Jimi Hendrix's hybrid musical sensibility in Tsumbu's riveting playing, appropriate enough perhaps on the 43rd anniversary of Hendrix's last gig. The trio's debut recording is due for release in 2014 and, with a bit of luck, will introduce The Multiverse to audiences beyond Irish shores.