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Kit Downes/Cormac O'Brien Band at McHughs

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Kit Downes/Cormac O'Brien Band McHughs Belfast, N. Ireland September 13, 2014 Dating back to 1711, McHughs bar and restaurant is the oldest surviving building in jny: Belfast. As such, McHughs underground cellar, which played host to the Kit Downes/Cormac O'Brien Band seemed like an appropriate venue for a jazz gig. For like McHughs, jazz has survived--and for some practitioners it's changed little since the 1940s--while all around it has changed dramatically. Situated a stone's throw from Belfast's docks, McHughs has been absorbed by a new city landscape that includes state of the art ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Kit Downes: Light From Old Stars

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Arch collaborator Kit Downes has been near ubiquitous in UK jazz terms over the last few years. His trio collection Golden was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize (the nearest thing to a UK Grammys) in 2010 and considerably raised his public profile. Yet in interview Downes has commented upon the double edged sword that this exposure brought--happy with the increased bookings and CD sales, but less fond of the exposure to criticism from a less empathetic mainstream audience. Such was the impact of that criticism that Downes came close to walking away from music altogether, surely a tragedy for ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kit Downes and Tom Challenger: Wedding Music

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Six improvised pieces of music, created over a three-day residency by two of the UK's most innovative and visionary young players and performed as church organ and saxophone duets. That's Wedding Music, by organist Kit Downes and saxophonist Tom Challenger. Six strange, atmospheric and starkly beautiful pieces of music. Wedding Music was recorded in St Paul's Church, Huddersfield, in Yorkshire--the home of a church organ which Downes describes as “exceptional." It's the culmination of a three-day residency at Huddersfield University during which, according to the organist, the duo explored “timbre, space, duration and sound." The exploration is a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kit Downes and Tom Challenger: Wedding Music

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The multiple-award winning pianist Kit Downes and the versatile saxophonist Tom Challenger have the distinction of conceiving one of the most unusual releases in years with Wedding Music. This alliance of these critically praised members of the UK's Loop Collective has produced a superb and unique collection of duets for church organ and tenor sax. While organ and saxophone duos are a rarity even in the realm of the B-3, Downes and Challenger take it to an altogether different level in this setting. In recording at Huddersfield University's St Paul's Church, the distinctive space becomes part of the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kit Downes: Light From Old Stars

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Given pianist/composer Kit Downes' standing in the UK jazz scene it's rather surprising that Light From Old Stars is only the third album he's released under his own name. It's less surprising when his relative youth--he was still in his mid-20s when he recorded this album--and active membership in bands such as Troyka and Stan Sulzmann's Neon are added to the mix. All this musical activity might seem to leave little time for other considerations, but at least one non-musical interest is key to the development of Light From Old Stars.As the album's title suggests, the key is ...

CATCHING UP WITH

Kit Downes: Old Stars, New Blues

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Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Saturday 30th April 2011. The young British pianist and composer Kit Downes has travelled to this west of England town to première his latest composition, Animation Migration, at the Playhouse Theatre. It was an unusual event for a jazz festival. Downes' band played music inspired by the story of evolution and DNA alongside Lesley Barnes' similarly inspired and wonderfully colorful animations, followed by a question and answer session, where Downes and Barnes were joined by scientist and television presenter Adam Rutherford. The early evening event was a success and the audience demanded, and got, a reprise of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kit Downes Trio: Quiet Tiger

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The Kit Downes Trio's first album, Golden (Basho Records, 2009), won a Mercury Music Prize nomination and put the group firmly at the forefront of British jazz. Quiet Tiger finds the Trio eager to move forward, redefining its sound. Not content to rest on the laurels garnered by Golden, pianist and composer Downes has augmented the band, expanding its musical palette with the unusual addition of tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and cello. At heart, though, this is still a trio, and bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer James Maddren remain central to the band's identity. Gourlay is an ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kit Downes Trio: Quiet Tiger

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When it's time to follow up an album nominated for a major, mainstream award such as Britain's Mercury Prize, jazz artists face a conundrum. Having enjoyed a year or so of unprecedented publicity, and keen to keep it coming, the choice is between a carbon copy of the nominated album, designed to maintain the lucrative, but fragile connection with non-specialist critics and listeners, and a less commercially considered trajectory, going where the music dictates. Led Bib's Bring Your Own (Cuneiform, 2011), the group's follow up to its Mercury-nominated Sensible Shoes (Cuneiform, 2009), trod a middle path, although one ...

INTERVIEWS

Kit Downes: You Have to Be What You Are

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Kit Downes' career as a jazz musician has, indeed, taken off in a very short time. He's still in his mid-20s, but such is his talent and appetite for music that Downes has become one of the most sought-after keyboardist in Britain, and he's a key presence in a series of cutting-edge bands, with The Golden Age Of Steam, Troyka, Big Cat and his own Kit Downes Trio all springing readily to mind. While the intelligent but unassuming musician has seen his reputation extend across the jazz scene, in the weeks leading up to this interview he ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Kit Downes Trio: Golden

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Golden is the first album by the Kit Downes Trio--and it provides plenty of evidence to support the growing reputations of these three young musicians. The trio, led by pianist Kit Downes, has been together since 2005 when its members were in the early stages of their studies at the Royal Academy of Music. The quality of writing and performance on this album so soon after the players' graduation demonstrates their huge potential and ensures that the album itself is one of the finest debut recordings of 2009. Downes wrote seven of the eight tunes, with bassist ...



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