Down With Jazz 2013
Without a doubt, one of the most eagerly anticipated concerts of Down With Jazz was the performance of Khanda's suite Five Cities. Bassist Ronan Guilfoyle's project blending south Indian drumming, jazz and Irish traditional music was first released in 2003 on the Improvised Music Company label and toured India to great critical acclaim. Down With Jazz director Gerry Godley was only slightly out when he said: "This band plays with the frequency of Halley's Comet passing earth," for indeed ten years had passed since the group's previous performance.
For nearly forty minutes, the various musical threads entwined as one. Accordionist Peter Brown's harmonium-like drone and singer Sara Beuchi's haunting vocals were joined by Martin Nolan's uilleann pipes as idioms joined seamlessly. Drummer Connor Guilfoyle and Ramesh Shotham's double-headed drum layered insistent rhythms, inviting Guilfoyle's bass and Tommy Hafferty's guitar to join the steadily building groove.
Beuchiwho spent two years in India studying Karnatic musiccombined beautifully with flutist Ellen Cranitch, but the most striking passages of a totally absorbing suite came when everybody was on board singing a common tongue. Lyrical, rootsy and exhilarating, the standing ovation that greeted the final note spoke volumes about the power of the performance.
An encore seemed like a pointless ask, but in fact a tongue-in-cheek vocal duet between Shotham and Nolan blended Irish diddle-dee-dee and konnakolsurely distant cousinsin a delightful exchange entitled "Jibberish." Given its track record it's unlikely that Khanda will perform Five Cities with any great frequency in the future, so such a performance is to be cherished. On the other hand, it would seem a shame not to rekindle the flame every once in a while.
The honor of closing Down With Jazz for another yearand no small task following Khanda fell to Outerspaceways Inc., the riotous Sun Ra tribute band led by multi-instrumentalist Tom Walsh. A honking baritone saxophone invaded the evening air, and it took most people a little while to work out that it was coming from above. On the balcony of the Ark building, almost at roof level, Chris Engel, with red and green lights flashing on his saxophone, drew exclamative cries from his instrument in a kind of cosmic reveille. It signaled to the musicians down on Earth to file through the audience and onto the stage.
Thirty or so musicians crowded the stage, attired in gold and orange glittery robes and an assortment of wigs and sunglasses. Flashcards signaled to both band and audience various musical commands, such as 'louder,' 'quieter,' 'crescendo,' 'free noise,' 'quiet' and 'stop.' This was never an altogether serious endeavor and a kind of shambolic enthusiasm reigned during renditions of "We Travel the Spaceways," the ever- joyous "Face the Music" and "Space is the Place."
Sun Ra would have been horrified at the bum notes, sloppy syncopation and general anarchy of the performance and would probably have sacked everybody. But then again, Ra never did comedy.
Perhaps Father Conefrey, were he looking down on the shenanigans, would have identified with the myth and legend, the cult of Sun Rathe self-styled prophet of peace. No doubt had they met, Ra would have told the good Father: "You have to face the music; you have to listen to the cosmic sound." To which Father Conefrey would likely have replied: "Down with this sort of thing!"
All Photos: Courtesy of Dublin Jazz Photography