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Brilliant Corners 2018

Ian Patterson By

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The Saturday and Sunday afternoon gigs have proved highly popular in recent editions of Brilliant Corners and there was nothing that The Beast From the East—the colourfully titled Siberian weather front whose snow and ice brought large parts of the country to a standstill—could do to stop the faithful turning up for Ronnie Greer's searing blues sermon.

Greer, the doyen of Irish blues guitar, was joined by special guest Jim Mullen. Glaswegian Mullen, a five-times-winner of 'Best Guitarist' in the British Jazz Awards, made his name alongside Dick Morrissey, with whom he recorded half a dozen albums in the 1970s and 1980s, and has also collaborated with Jimmy Witherspoon, Gary Husband, Claire Martin, Stan Sulzman and Mose Allison, amongst many others. The quartet was rounded out by two of Ireland's finest -Scott Flanigan on organ and Dominic Mullan on drums

Greer and Mullen's respective blues and jazz idioms dovetailed beautifully on a set that ran from easy swing (Toots Thielmans's "For My Lady") and caressing ballads (Don't Go to Strangers") to samba-laced grooves (Bruno Martino's "Estate") and intimate duets ("Stompin' at the Savoy"). The two guitarists traded solos liberally, Mullen's jaw-dropping fluidity referencing his primary influences—Wes Montgomery and George Benson. Mullen's thumb in lieu of a plectrum echoed Montgomery's technique, while his scatting on a refreshingly swinging version of "Summertime" was straight out of the Benson school. Greer's forays were more rooted in the Chicago blues tradition, although he revealed his jazz chops on a visceral interpretation of Charles Mingus's "Nostalgia in Times Square" from his album The Jazz Project (2016). Central to both guitarist's respective idioms, however, was the primacy of soulfulness over virtuosity.

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

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