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Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival 2015

Ian Patterson By

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The whole premise is demonstrating how far-reaching jazz is and how many things it touches on —Michael Bonner, Moving On Music
Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival
Belfast, Ireland
March 25-28 , 2015

Brilliant Corners may not be the biggest jazz festival in Northern Ireland—that accolade belongs to the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival—but in just three editions it can already lay claim to being the best.

Eschewing the populist acts that characterize Derry's sprawling jazz festival, promoter Moving On Music has quickly established Brilliant Corners as the home of new and cutting edge jazz/improvised music acts in the Northern Irish capital.

It's a bold move given the limited audience and lack of dedicated venues for such music in Belfast, but for the past twenty years Moving On Music has been all about promoting contemporary music of multiple hues and developing audiences in Northern Ireland.

In the last twelve months alone Moving On Music has promoted tours by new Irish trad band Moxie, pianist Joanna MacGregor, contemporary string ensemble JACK Quartet, flamenco guitarist Eduardo Niebla, improvising duo Paul Stapleton & Simon Rose, fiddlers Caoimhin O Raghallaigh & Dan Trueman, Sidsel Endresen & Jan Bang and The Necks.

Jazz fans have also been well catered for, with Bourne/Davis/Kane, Tony Malaby Trio, Phronesis, Louis Moholo Moholo & Alexander Hawkins, David Lyttle Sextet, Neil Cowley Trio, and Linley Hamilton Quintet all touring thanks to the efforts of Moving On Music.

This year's Brilliant Corners festival served up a multi-genre musical banquet that ran from traditional big band and straight-ahead small ensembles to the avant-garde. "It's as broad a mix as possible," says Michael Bonner, Marketing Officer and right hand man to Moving On Music's CEO, Brian Carson. "The whole premise is demonstrating how far-reaching jazz is and how many things it touches on."

Day One

Dublin City Jazz Orchestra

The opening concert by the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra was a reminder that even the predominantly pre-World War II jazz that made up its set drew inspiration from myriad sources including blues, soul, gospel, work-songs and Broadway show tunes.

Whilst the 17-piece band's repertoire was undoubtedly conservative, its joyous swing and swagger delighted the audience at the Crescent Arts Centre.

The orchestras of Count Basie and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis provided the blueprint, with trombonist/vocalist Paul Frost in Joe Williams's shoes on "Every Day I Have the blues"—the pick of several vocal tunes. The soloists throughout were uniformly excellent, spicing up the arrangements nicely.

Steered by alto saxophonist Ciaran Wilde, the DCJO paid homage to Duke Ellington ("In a Mellow Tone"), John Coltrane ("Impressions"), Thelonious Monk ("Well You Needn't"), and Oliver Nelson ("Hoe-Down"). On a raucous version of Ray Charles's "Let's Go Get Stoned" Frost's shuddering baritone veered into Screamin' Jay Hawkins territory. A tender rendition of "God Bless the Child" provided a set highlight.

Guitarist Hugh Buckely's "When Wes Was,"—a tribute to Wes Montgomery—allowed him to finally step away from rhythmic duties and cut loose. It was the only original tune of the set, but then the DCJO is a flame-keeping repertoire band—and a damned good one—whose audience demographic leans heavily towards the familiar jazz of a bygone era. The DCJO preaches to the converted and it was a happy congregation and an enjoyable, feel-good start to Brilliant Corners 2015.

Day Two

Scott Flanigan Trio

With two gigs clashing across town it was a toss-up between local talent and one of the hot London bands of recent years, Troyka.

Though his debut CD as leader is due for release later this year, pianist Scott Flanigan is already one Northern Ireland's most respected pianist/keyboardists, having worked with Van Morrison, Jean Toussaint and regularly with Linley Hamilton, not to mention the Ulster Orchestra.

Flanigan's classical training was evident in his outstanding two-handed technique though his melodic and rhythmic sensibilities, notably on "The Masterplan," owed more to the Brad Mehldau school of modern piano. There was nothing to suggest this was in fact Flanigan's first gig with drummer Steve Davis and bassist Neil O'Loghlen, as the trio's interplay was never less than dynamic.

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