All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

1,614

10th Bray Jazz Festival

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
By now Bray can surely lay claim to being one of the very best small jazz festivals in Europe.
10th Bray Jazz Festival
Bray, Ireland
May 1-3, 2009

The small town of Bray in county Wicklow is not the most obvious location for an international jazz festival. Situated twenty kilometers south of the capital Dublin and hugging the coast, it has been battered by the Irish Sea since at least 1300, longer than any other seaside town in Ireland. The number of sea-front hotels, B & Bs, the amusement arcade and the so-called Fun Palace attest to its weekend-away character. Yet, it is a source of pride that the Bray Jazz Festival is celebrating its tenth anniversary with another excellent program and, by now Bray can surely lay claim to being one of the very best small jazz festivals in Europe.



What started off in 2000 as a largely Irish jazz festival with the international acts making the short hop from the UK has blossomed into a festival described by the Irish Times as "the connoisseurs' jazz festival," and with some reason. While not equipped with the kind of budget that would bring the biggest names in jazz, the Bray Jazz Festival over the past decade can boast appearances by respected and influential artists such as Andrew Hill, Henri Texier, Tomasz Stanko and Dave Douglas, the latter who recorded a live album here in 2007, Moonshine (Greenleaf Music, 2008)

Savvy programming includes up and coming names as well as world music artists, and there is no fear of including avant and experimental musicians too. The man behind the Bray Jazz Festival is George Jacob, who recognized the potential of Bray to host a festival in the run-up to the millennium celebrations. He drew up a proposal for a jazz festival and got both approval and part funding from the Arts Council of Ireland. It was definitely a business proposal at the beginning, as Jacob admits that he was no lover of jazz, an aversion that proximity to this music rapidly changed: "I have become a jazz fan and feel the need to convert everyone else."

George Jacob may now even be a jazz proselytizer, but it's the integrity of the art showcased and the festival brand name (its brand is its location) that are paramount. Although the success of the festival is inevitably measured by bums on seats, no compromise is made to pander to a more populist palette, and over the years the Bray Jazz Festival has become synonymous with quality music.

The good reputation the festival enjoys can be evidenced by the fact that despite the Arts Council's twenty percent cut in the budget for the 2009 program, which meant a cut in wages for all, the festival was still able to put on as strong a program as ever. Jacob has boxed clever over the years, enticing artists over to Ireland from the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and from the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in a somewhat rejuvenated area of Belfast. Splitting the cost of artists' flights with other promoters means that everyone is a winner and, although Bray cannot match the fees of larger festivals, musicians are attracted by the intimacy of the venues and the respect and warmth they are accorded from organizers and public alike. This year Bray had to cut artists' fees, and George relates with a modest pride: "In not one case did a band turn us down."





Old Town Hall

And so to the music: The venue for Friday's festival opener was the old Town Hall, a mock Tudor edifice and former weighing station in the middle of the high street. More than a few festival goers entered the portico, only to be totally befuddled to find themselves in a McDonald's restaurant. What would Henry VIII have thought? But we were in the right place, after all, as the function room above the fast-food joint was one of the four main venues over the three days. Stain glass windows depicting the English royal crown and English heraldry and regalia adorning the small chamber served as the slightly surreal backdrop, in this most Irish of towns, to the wonderful trio Boi Akih.

Boi Akih is essentially Indonesian vocalist Monica Akihary and acoustic guitarist Niels Brouwer from Holland, joined here by Indian tabla player Sundip Bhattacharya. For over a decade now, Akihary and Brouner have been exploring world rhythms, starting from Akihary's ancestral homeland, the small islands of the Moluccas in the Indian archipelago, and radiating outwards to India and West Africa.

Sung primarily in the all but expired language of Haraku, Akihary's songs speak of the everyday: the perfume of the gourd flower, the 'wind' of the flute, day's end, the rustling of bamboo—songs of memory and of longing. Akihary is an exceptional singer with a voice full of emotion and a surprising range that climbs from a deep, sonorous bass to the heights of birdsong.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Enjoy Jazz 2018 Live Reviews
Enjoy Jazz 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Jazz for all Ages Live Reviews
Jazz for all Ages
by Martin McFie
Published: November 14, 2018
Read Baku Jazz Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Baku Jazz Festival 2018
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe Live Reviews
Joanna Pascale at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 13, 2018
Read Moldejazz 2018 Live Reviews
Moldejazz 2018
by Martin Longley
Published: November 10, 2018
Read Nik Bärtsch's Ronin At The Bop Stop Live Reviews
Nik Bärtsch's Ronin At The Bop Stop
by Matt Hooke
Published: November 10, 2018
Read "Spencer Day at The Green Room 42" Live Reviews Spencer Day at The Green Room 42
by Tyran Grillo
Published: May 21, 2018
Read "Pat Martino Quintet at Chris' Jazz Cafe" Live Reviews Pat Martino Quintet at Chris' Jazz Cafe
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 26, 2017