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Brilliant Corners 2017

Ian Patterson By

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Expansive soloing of the highest calibre extended the recorded life-span of the compositions, but the disciplined ensemble execution of Ronan Guilfoyle's knottily complex charts carried equal weight. This duality of firmly etched compositional lines and explosive freedom on songs such as the noirish, slow-burning "Sneaky," the helter-skelter "Hands" and the boppish, Charlie Parker-esque "From the Apple" made for compelling listening.

David Binney blew away any trans-Atlantic cobwebs with a burrowing alto saxophone of some intensity on the opener "In Fairness," with Ronan Guilfoyle's fluid bass lines and Tom Rainey's perpetual motion providing something of a moving canvas. Chris Guilfoyle 's response was to up the ante with a tumbling guitar solo that was as technically thrilling as it was consistently engaging. One of the most exciting guitarists to have emerged from Ireland in years, Guilfoyle's recording debut came on Hands, while Umbra—the debut of his own band—demonstrated notable compositional flair. His judicious use of pedals on the ska-tinged "Telemachus" nuanced comping on "Close Call," feathery lyricism on the unaccompanied intro to the ballad "Crystal" ,and the arresting tête à tête with Rainey on the intro to "Nod" revealed a broad sonic palette, but it was his fluid, straight-ahead improvisations that really caught the ear.

Binney's fast-and-furious alto, spurred on by Rainey, was at the core of the short but memorable "Nod"—a breathless finale to an impressive gig. Whether Ronan Guilfoyle's Irish/North American quartet will record again and tour more extensively remains to be seen, but if it's to exist as an occasional pop-up band, then that makes outings such as this memorable Brilliant Corners performance all the more special.

Joseph Leighton Trio

Nineteen-year-old guitarist Joseph Leighton was making a return to Brilliant Corners after having impressed at the 2016 edition in a band of emerging Northern Irish jazz talent. Since then, Leighton has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of the youngest musicians ever to have participated in the internationally renowned jazz course at the Banff Centre, Canada, as well as securing a place at London's Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance later this year. In addition, Leighton is one of the recipient's of Moving On Music's inaugural Emerging Artist Programme, which helps promote and develop outstanding artists across musical genres.

Leighton's genre is assuredly jazz, but as the pedal effects and loops that bookended the self-penned "Planet Nine" indicated, the guitarist has at least one foot in the modernists' camp. The other is firmly planted in a tradition that stretches from Jim Hall to Pat Metheny, his clean articulation and spacious phrasing accentuating an overtly melodic approach. There was a nod to Sonny Rollins on the standard "Without a Song" -bassist Conor Murray and Leighton both impressing on this mid-tempo swinger. It was drummer James Anderson's turn to stretch out on another standard, "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," with Leighton and Murray playing a largely supporting role.

Two beautifully weighted ballads provided undoubted highlights of the set. Leighton's "Mirror Lake," and the standard "Detour Ahead"—inspired by pianist Bill Evans' version—featured nuanced trio interplay and showed Leighton at his most refined and lyrical. It's early days yet for the young guitarist/composer, but you get the feeling already that great musical adventures lie ahead. Derry's loss will be London's gain.

Documentary Films@ Beanbag Cinema: Mingus: Charlie Mingus 68

This year's Brilliant Corners offered three very different documentary films. Due to logistical problems, the Thursday screening of Kaper Allen's biopic My Name is Albert Ayler was cancelled. In its place, Thomas Richman's Mingus: Charlie Mingus 68 (1968) was screened. The fifty eight-minute black and white documentary captures Mingus as he and his five-year-old daughter, Carolyn, are evicted from their New York apartment in 1966.

A surprisingly relaxed Mingus, affable and philosophical, , talks to camera as he potters about his chaotic apartment, playing with his daughter, occasionally sipping on a glass of wine, or tinkering at his piano. Released in 1968, a tumultuous year in America race relations/politics that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, Mingus' thoughts on racism, expressed at times in improvised poetry, are poignant and moving.

Mingus appears to have at least two rifles lying amongst the clutter, one of which he fires into the ceiling with the calm demeanour of someone swatting a fly. These scenes evoke the iconic image of Malcom X—assassinated a year before the making of this documentary—clutching an M1 Carbine, and chime with the legend of Mingus as a man unwilling to back down in the face of injustice, and of one quick to fight.

Of interest too, are sequences of live performances from Lennie's On The Turnpike—Lennie Sogoloff's famous jazz club,—featuring Mingus in superb form along with Walter Bishop, Jr., Dannie Richmond and Charles McPherson. The emotional intensity of the music and Mingus' jovial vibe makes for stark contrast with the rather depressing scenes of the eviction. A fascinating fly-on-the-wall glimpse into a turbulent period of American history and an important chapter in Mingus' life—fuel to the flames that raged in Mingus' autobiography Beneath The Underdog (1971).

I Am Three

A versatile musician, German saxophonist Silke Eberhard can be found leading her own ensembles, playing in duos with dancer Chrystel Guillebaud, pianists Dave Burrell and Aki Takase and drummer Alex Huber, or in Wayne Horvitz's European Orchestra. She has tackled, in most original fashion, the music of Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy, and with I Am Three—featuring trumpeter Nikolaus Neuser and drummer Christian Marien—the music of Charles Mingus.

It's a bold concept to approach Mingus's music without a bass or a piano, but fortune, as the saying goes, favours the brave. I Am Three's scintillating display was equal parts harmonic-cum-rhythmic sophistication, and visceral, quite exhilarating, edge-of-the-seat improvisation. Once Eberhard had launched the opening notes of "Moanin,'" the trio embarked on a very personal tribute to Mingus that captured the depth and vitality of the bassist's compositions without being overly reverential.
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