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Brilliant Corners 2018

Ian Patterson By

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No less impressive was Flanigan. Fresh from his Take 5 residency—a project run by Serious to help stimulate the careers of promising jazz talent—the organist proved a first rate accompanist and an impassioned soloist, notably on the Gershwins' "Summertime," where his fiery Hammond organ-esque improvisation stirred memories of Brian Auger—with whom Mullen played in the early 1970s—in his heyday.

Original takes on Earth Wind and Fire's "After the Love Has Gone" and Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" added to a varied set. A rousing version of Sonny Rollins' "Tenor Madness" saw closing salvos from all, including a fine trumpet solo from special guest Linley Hamilton. Serious fun.

Day Three: Irish Showcase

The Irish showcases coincided with a visit from members of the Jazz Promotions Network, a body representing eighty organisations from across the UK and Ireland. The JPN aims to build audiences for jazz, provide opportunities for musicians and promoters, co-commission projects and tours, and in general, to advocate for jazz—and related music—nationally and internationally.

Joseph Leighton Trio

Derry guitarist Joseph Leighton, currently studying at Trinity College of Music in London, was championed by Moving On Music as part of its inaugural Emerging Artists programme in 2017. That meant an appearance at Brilliant Corners 2017 leading a trio with double bassist Conor Murray and drummer James Anderson. This time around Jack Kelly held the upright bass, with Anderson once more on the drum stool. The short set comprised Leighton's original compositions, "Planet 9," the ballad "Mirror Lake" and the more up-tempo "Caspar," plus the jazz standard "I'll Be Seeing You." Leighton's writing, as you might expect from a jazz student, followed the jazz standards roadmap, and it was his lyrical expression as a soloist that most impressed. The trio performed admirably to an appreciative audience and was just beginning to hit its stride on the delightfully cheery last number. Another half an hour would likely have seen a looser, more flowing trio sound emerge but there will be plenty more opportunities for these young, rising stars of Irish jazz to strut their stuff.

Sue Rynhart

Though Sue Rynhart has played a number of jazz festivals, including a memorable performance at Bray Jazz Festival 2016, the fact is that it's no easy task trying to stick her music in a box. As this performance demonstrated jazz is indeed one part of the mix, but there are so many more colors to Rynhart's palette. Bassist Dan Bodwell has been the rhythmic motor in what has mostly been a duo until quite recently, providing vibrant ostinatos and lithe accompaniment to Rynhart's singular singing style. Part traditional folk, part avant-garde pop, Rynhart swung between the brooding poetry of "Little Red Fox" and the lulling balladry of "Penny for your Thoughts" to the infectious idiosyncrasy of "Viper," her seductive vocals buoyed by Bodwell's earthy bass lines. Francesco Turrisi, who guested on Rynhart's second album Signals (Mrsuesue Records, 2017), brought additional timbres on frame drum and organ. On "Silliest Game" his intro on a hybrid, custom built lute-cum-oud was spellbinding. The Italian multi-instrumentalist's timeless folkloric and church-like nuances brought out the emotional depth of Rynhart's compositions, suggesting that as a trio, the singer can take her hypnotic, inimitable music in entirely new directions.

The Paul Dunlea Group

Cork trombonist Paul Dunlea can be found in a wide variety of settings, although it's as a jazz musician/arranger that he's best known, having played/recorded with the likes of Marshall Gilkes, Taylor Eigsti, Cassandra Wilson, Peter Washington, Lewis Nash and Billy Drummond. Here, backed by his quintet of seven years standing, Dunlea demonstrated his skills as a soloist, composer and arranger, leading his group through fairly complex charts notable for their melodic character.

Drummer Alyn Cosker, bassist Barry Donohue and pianist Leopoldo Osio proved a lithe and dynamic rhythm section, with Venezuelan Osio's solo excursions raising the temperature a notch or two. Much of the music's charm resided in the rich harmonic lines woven by tenor saxophonist Ben Castle and Dunlea, though there was individual fire aplenty, notably from Castle and Dunlea on "Heads or Tails," an episodic number that concluded on a quieter note with Donohue's beguiling, unaccompanied bass meditation.

At its most intimate Dunlea's music swayed between achingly lyrical and melodically uplifting, with the transitions to more robust ensemble passages building gradually but surely, like day following night. The final tune, a post-bop burner of sure rhythmic compass and stirring solos—no less so than from the continually inventive Cosker—set the seal on an impressive set. Dunlea is undoubtedly an assured trombonist, but perhaps his greatest strength lies in his composing, while his main instrument is arguably the ensemble he writes for— which in this case was most persuasive.

Day Three

Thunderblender

Thunderblender is a Belgian-based trio led by Dubliner Sam Comerford, who can also be found in a number of other excellent projects, including Ingo Hipp's Aerie, Chris Guilfoyle 's Umbra and Insufficient Funs—the latter a duo with drummer Matthew Jacobson. Thunderblender's debut release, Last Minute Panic (Honolulu Records, 2017) announced the trio's blend of studied composure and thrill-seeking , but in concert, as those in the Black Box gig witnessed, the music took on an added dimension.

Flanked by pianist Hendrik Lasure and drummer Jens Bouttery , Comerford switched back and forth between tenor and bass saxophones on an untitled opening number. The bass saxophone is a beast of an instrument, but Comerford handled it with the same dexterity and fluidity as he did the tenor as the trio flitted between composed and improvised channels, surfing rising-falling waves of dynamics—spacious and tender at one extreme, flowing and tumultouos at the other.

The energized "Bozza" fairly catapulted out of the blocks, with bass-synth, mini shakers and electronic soundscaping adding subtle contemporary textures. Stabbing piano chords and fractured drum rhythms framed Comerford's tenor excursion, which grew from meandering and melodious to searing. Comerford's bass saxophone riffed its way through the body of "Last Minute Panic," the spare compositional framework inviting spiky free improvisation, with piano and drums to the fore; a slower, hazily lyrical passage stretched out into a trance-inducing, lulling coda.
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