Playing with her regular sidemen of Dave Ambrosio on bass and Ikuo Takeuchi on drums, Yamamoto showed that she has an original voice whose inspiration lies in the most normal, everyday thingsa bumpy bike ride, sheep, bottled water, a treeand translates them into highly impressionistic playing. Her focus is on carrying a melody, her virtuosity never overshadowing the rhythm of her playing. With the exception of a gentle interpretation of "Danny Boy" the set was of original tunes that showcased Yamamoto's lyricism and penchant for joyous melodies. Her fertile imagination engenders songs of real character, and after more than a decade playing together this trio is tight and swinging. Yamamoto left the stage announcing her intention to go out and "drink a lot of Guinness." Now there's a jazz pianist the Irish can relate to.
It fell to drummer David Lyttle and saxophonist Soweto Kinch to bring the curtain down on Bray 2009. Lyttle has been a mainstay on the local scene for some years now and has earned a reputation as a drummer of real talent, having collaborated with Greg Osby, Dave Liebman, Jason Rebello and Tommy Smith. Most of the tunes performed alongside bassist Damian Evans and Kinch were Lyttle originals and underlined his skills as a composer too. Kinch for his part was in fine form; his extended solos, free-flowing and daring were suggestive of a young Sonny Rollins.
To the delight of a packed crowd, Kinch improvised a rap around key words suggested by the audience. When you hear the apparent ease with which his ideas are formulated and linked, and the fluidity of his delivery, the relationship between rap and his playing the saxophone becomes somehow clearer. At shortly after two A.M. the music stopped, and once last orders had been consumed the crowd shuffled out to join all the other late-night revelers spilling out of the bars and clubs.
The continued existence of many small, independent festivals in Ireland and elsewhere are threatened by the current economic malaise which has left one in ten of the population unemployed in the Republic of Ireland; many such festivals will not survive. It is a sign of the times that the national Irish press all but ignored the Bray Jazz Festival 2009, with the Irish Times reviewing just one concert due to cutbacks in coverage of the arts. The Bray Jazz Festival is too good a festival to disappear, and one can only hope that the support the festival has received over the last ten years from the Arts Council of Ireland and the Councils of Bray and Wicklow continues. Here's to the next ten years.