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Bray Jazz Festival 2019

Ian Patterson By

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Kenosha Kid describes itself as jazz-meets-college-radio, which might mean something concrete if you're from Athens, Georgia, where in 2004, guitarist/songwriter Dan Nettles founded the band. Since then, Kenosha Kid has released six studio albums and over fifty Bandcamp downloadable live recordings. For this short Irish tour, Nettles was backed by two of Ireland's finest in guitarist Shane Latimer, and Gorilla Mask bassist Roland Fidezius.

A mash-up between contemporary jazz, alt-rock and jam-band ethos, Kenosha Kid cast a wicked spell with the opener, "Clean, Cover, Secure," an infectious brew of melodic hooks, head-bobbing groove and, running throughout, Nettles' stylish guitar playing. With electric Bill Frisell as something of a touchstone, Nettles' use of loops, delay and a broad vocabulary went hand-in-hand with a less-is-more approach. Showcasing material from his sixth studio album, Missing Pieces (2019), Nettles' guitar was centre-stage on the rhythmically driving "Always Will Be," a hybrid of garage-band immediacy and prog-leaning sophistication.

Latimer handled slide-guitar duties on the slow-burning "After This," a cinematic mood-piece that never really developed significantly. More satisfying was the country- rock of "Another Hour," and the melodically uplifting "How Would it all Fit?," a driving song if ever there was, that evoked Viktor Krauss-era Frisell. A more sensitive side to Nettles' pen came on the ballad "Letters," which showcased Fidezius in more lyrical mode. Nettles' tasteful, bluesy-Americana chops were to the fore on the mid-tempo, radio- friendly "Simpler" and on the atmospheric slower number "Missing Pieces," but with all his compositions the vibe was the thing.

Kenosha Kid wound up its set on a high, with the radio friendly "Lift This Stone" followed by the rockier, though highly melodic "Don't Listen to the Static." Nettles, as this concert demonstrated, is an understated yet arresting guitarist, and an accomplished, composer with an ear for a good hook. His vehicle, Kenosha Kid, would grace just about any festival stage.

Day Three

Aleka Potinga

The last day of BJF 2019 saw a packed house at the Harbour Stage for the quartet of Aleka Potinga, the Dublin-based Romanian singer/cellist/educator. A versatile musician, Potinga's debut EP Aleka (EM Records, 2017), where her cello and voice were equal protagonists, covered stylistically diverse ground from Nick Drake cover to Romanian film music. With her first full length jazz CD out to coincide with BJF, Potinga, delivered a bright set of standards and Brazilian-flavored fare, backed by Chris Guilfoyle , Brendan Doherty and Ronan Guilfoyle .

A singer with stage presence, Potinga unleashed dashing unison lines with Chris Guilfoyle on the lively Brazilian opener, scatted freely on "No Moon at All" and "love for Sale," and brought a fresh slant to Wayne Shorter's "Iris" with her original lyrics. Potinga's bossa nova interpretation of "Only Trust Your Heart" highlighted her credentials as a balladeer, with Chris Guilfoyle delivering another beautifully crafted solo. For a decade or more, Guilfoyle has earned a reputation as one of the best Irish musicians of his generation, and his soloing and sympathetic comping were never less than captivating.

Singer and guitarist combined on a dreamy intro to "Round Midnight," though the sudden interjection of the rhythm section catapulted the music into charging post-bop territory. Several more bossa nova tunes served as vehicles for Potinga's scatting, and an enjoyable set ended on a suitably upbeat note with João Gilberto's "Bim Bom," complete with simulated Brazilian percussion sound effects.

Norma Winstone & Tommy Halferty

The early evening gig in Bray Town Hall featured England's greatest jazz singer and Ireland's greatest jazz guitarist—in as far as these things can be measured. Still, who would argue against such a billing for Norma Winstone and Tommy Halferty? Something of a double celebration, Winstone and Halferty were marking twenty years of collaboration and, not unrelated, the launch of the duo's first ever recording, Tommy Halferty Invites Norma Winstone (Jazz On The Terrace, 2019).

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