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Brilliant Corners 2019

Brilliant Corners 2019

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Belfast should treasure Brilliant Corners. It’s an incubator for young musicians… a professional launching pad for the country’s especially talented musicians…and a window onto some of the most exciting and inspirational international music.
Brilliant Corners 2019
The Black Box/Sonic Lab
Belfast, N. Ireland
March 2-9, 2019

For many years the words brilliant, jazz and Belfast rarely appeared in the same sentence. That all changed in 2013 when music promoters Moving On Music launched Brilliant Corners, subtitled A Festival of Jazz in Belfast. Since then, and bridging the first and second weekends of March, Brilliant Corners has carved out a reputation as one of the city's essential cultural events.

With its broad-church approach to contemporary jazz/improvised music, Brilliant Corners has done much to shake up the lingering perception of jazz in this corner of Ireland as a museum-piece, a hermetic, 'outsider' culture for chin-stroking intellectuals. Craig Taborn's mind-boggling solo piano performance—a potent advance messenger for the festival proper—and The Comet Is Coming's cosmic rave on the festival's first evening, both served notice of the visceral and emotional power of this music. Music to take you out of your everyday world.

After experimenting with a multiple-venue format in previous editions Brilliant Corners' home is now firmly established in the Black Box, bang in the heart of Belfast's happening Cathedral Quarter. There, over six evenings, festival goers experienced everything from solo piano to big band jazz, and from straight-ahead trio to anarchic twelve-piece ensemble. As ever, the festival showcased up-and-coming local talent—an important part of Moving On Music's ethos—while Ireland's best jazz musicians shared the bill with some of the hottest bands on the European scene.

Outreach came in the form of workshops with local schools—an acknowledgment of the value of investing time, energy, enthusiasm and money in youth. Cuts in government funding to the arts in Northern Ireland—has anybody seen N.I.'s government since it downed tools in January 2017?—continue unabated, a reflection of the intellectual failure of policy makers to understand the contribution of the arts in general to the well-being of society.

For the first time at Brilliant Corners space was made for a photography exhibition. The walls of the Black Box were adorned with Belfast-based photographer Marcin Wilkowski's striking black-and-white photographs of Shabaka Hutchings, Idris Ackamoor and Sandra Poindexter, Cuban pianist David Virelles and a stunning close-up of the late Tomasz Stańko. More of this type of initiative would be welcome at future editions of Brilliant Corners.

Day One

Ulster Jazz Youth Orchestra

It was youth that got Brilliant Corners 2019 under way, with the twenty-eight-piece Ulster Jazz Youth Orchestra winning over a packed Black Box with a polished set of swinging jazz standards and imaginative reworkings of pop classics. Steered by founder, Ken Jordan, the UJYO captured the noirish atmosphere of Duke Ellington's "Harlem Nocturne," brought Michael Bubble-esque élan to the Stealer's Wheel hit "Stuck in the Middle with You," and rolled up their funk sleeves on punchy versions of "Uptown Funk" and Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious."

Aged between fifteen and twenty-one, the musicians typically stay for two or three years while at school or college, so the UYJO its constantly renewing its membership. Róise McHugh and Crystal Ashworth joined the UYJO at the end of 2018, but their lack of road miles hindered neither from turning in excellent performances. Taking the spotlight in turn, McHugh's pitch-perfect articulation on Bobby Troup's "Route 66," Henri Mancini/Johnny Mercer's samba-tinged "It Had Better be Tonight" and Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" was balanced by the earthier, bluesy overtones of Ashworth on Walter Donaldson/Gus Kahn's "My Baby Just Cares For Me" and Joseph Myrow/Mack Gordon's "You Make Me Feel So Young."

Though some songs suited McHugh and Ashworth's respective voices better than others, both showed undeniable promise. A highlight of the show came with their duet, rendered in Portuguese, of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Águas de Março." The girls' hard work in rehearsals paid off handsomely as they nailed the great singer-songwriter's homage to Brazil's rainiest month.

The full power of the big-band was harnessed on a swinging version of Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't," Toto's "Rosanne" and Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke." Solos were generally short, with saxophonists Mathew Edgar and James McNish the pick of the bunch.

Having celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2018, the UYJO—guided by the indefatigable Ken Jordan—has inspired several generations of N. Irish musicians. Enthusiasm and dedication are the UYJO's pillars, but there's a high standard of musicianship too, not to mention a real feel for the music, as evidenced by this uplifting performance at Brilliant Corners.

The Comet Is Coming

If the late Professor Stephen Hawking was right, and planet Earth really will turn into a huge fireball by 2600, give or take a century, then the notion of bucket lists will take on a greater urgency for future generations of Earthlings. The Comet Is Coming won't be around then, so the London three-piece should be on everybody's bucket list in this lifetime.

Saxophonist King Shabaka, (Shabaka Hutchings), keyboardist Danalogue The Conqueror (Dan Leavers) and drummer Betamax Killer (Maxwell Hallett ) were returning to the Black Box following The Comet Is Coming's memorable gig during the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in 2017.

The Comet Is Coming's music draws in equal measure from '80s dance culture, the spacey Afro-Futurism of Sun Ra and the keening spiritualism of latter- day John Coltrane. Song titles like "Final Days of the Apocalypse," "Star Exploding in Slow Motion," "Star Furnace" and "End of Earth" attest to the cosmological philosophy behind the music, but the trio's psychedelic, sci-fi jazz mash-up in yet another intoxicating Belfast performance was rooted in essentially earthy rhythms -infectious and unrelenting in their intensity. Even the festival photographer, negotiating the scrum at the front of the stage, was moving to the beats as he snapped away.

The Comet Is Coming's Belfast gig was part of a mini-tour promoting Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery—unreleased at time of writing—the band's third LP and first on the legendary Impulse! Label! Lift-off in the Black Box was gradual, but there was no going back once the trio was in full flow. Against Betamax Killer's blistering beats, King Shabaka dealt coarse-edged, machine-gun riffs punctuated by soaring cries, while Danalogue The Conqueror's wiry energy and brooding intensity at the keys stoked the rave-like atmosphere. Think Fela Kuti meets Eat Static.

At the music's most intense Danalogue The Conqueror exhorted the crowd to make some noise, to lose itself in the heady waves of sound engulfing the room. Though the interlocking of fiercely rasping saxophone riffs, pummeling drums and stabbing, swirling keys was the norm, the occasional mellifluous passage filtered through, albeit tied to driving beats. Alluring too, the rhythmic layers embedded in music of such primal, post-punk energy. Circular riffs, industrial pulses, hip-hop accents, African talking drum—all merged in The Comet Is Coming's riotous carnival of the apocalypse.

The crowd went potty as the three sweat-drenched musicians took their bows and left the stage. The inevitable encore saw the trio whip up the storm once more, the fury of drums and saxophone carried on Danalogue The Conqueror's wave of ambient textures. The crowd would have lapped up more, but after giving their all for an hour and twenty minutes the three musicians must have been spent.

If it is a comet that eventually pulverizes planet Earth, then The Comet Is Coming would make a mighty soundtrack. A thumping start to Brilliant Corners 2019.

Day Two

Izumi Kimura

Japanese-born Izumi Kimura has spent the guts of two decades in Ireland, where she has been one of the key figures in contemporary music. Equally at home in the technical maze that is the prepared piano epic of John Cage's "Sonatas and Interludes," shredding at vertiginous heights with guitarist Joe O'Callaghan, or locking horns with fearless improvising musicians of the caliber of Barry Guy, Kimura effortlessly straddles the divide between composed and improvised music.

It was this juxtaposition, between the formal and the imagined, that characterized Kimura's hour-long set at Brilliant Corners 2019. Her set began with a minimalist, blues-tinged meditation that morphed into a rumbling rhapsody punctuated by jagged percussive accents. Light and dark tones were in a more advanced state of flux on the second piece, Kimura's gently flowing lyricism dissolving into abstract terrain as quickly as cherry blossom blown from the branches of a tree. From newfound space the pianist immersed herself in stark minimalism, her spare vocabulary dark and brooding.

A succession of single notes sounded like soft chimes, soon gathering momentum on the back of a pronounced rhythmic vein. This too, was short-lived, as Kimura committed boldly to a series of tumbling glissandi. A brief pause, like a narrator turning a page, ushered in a robust two-handed dialogue, the left feeding a dark-hued rhythmic drive that countered the freewheeling spirit of her right. The tensions of this dense and dramatic passage found release in a rising glissando that terminated abruptly.

Kimura steered the music from austere impressionism one minute to gently aching lyricism the next, from spare to rapidly flowing. The Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" was the one nod to the jazz tradition, though Kimura's reading was about as radical a departure from the breezy original as was possible to imagine; her slow-circling left-hand motif providing the only clue to the song's identity as her right hand kicked up a jagged storm.

Following an intense through-composed piece, minimalist in detail but of surging intensity, Kimura visited an old Japanese tune, "Kono Michi." The melody, famous in Japan, was written by Kosaku Yamada and based on a 1927 poem by Hakushu Kitahara. This delicate ballad was vaguely evocative of "Danny Boy" and shared more than a little of the Irish tune's nostalgic yearning for the old country. Warm applause greeted Kimura, who offered up a short, sentimental tune by way of an encore.

Kimura's vocabulary may draw from classical, minimalism, jazz and free improvisation but her language, complex yet direct, refined yet dramatic, is very much her own.

Scott Flanigan Trio with Ant Law

Pianist Scott Flanigan has enjoyed an upwards trajectory since the release of his debut as leader, Point of Departure (Self-Produced, 2015). Collaborations with Larry Coryell, Jean Toussaint, Jim Mullen and Nigel Mooney and increased international exposure—including appearances at the EFG London Jazz Festival—have helped raise the profile of this talented Belfast pianist/keyboard player. Here, Flanigan was joined by two of Ireland's finest jazz musicians in Dave Redmond and Steve Davis, with rising English guitarist Ant Law swelling the ranks.

In what was one of the standout performances of Brilliant Corners 2019, Flanigan premiered a striking three-part suite, "Clouded Lines," commissioned by Moving On Music and the PRS Foundation. Against the backdrop of Davis' bustling stick and brushwork, Flanigan's propulsive comping and Redmond's steady compass, Law delivered a scintillating solo—at once fluid and biting. Flanigan responded with an equally attacking solo, and whilst the individual fireworks were undoubtedly compelling, it was the rhythmic urgency of the suite's first part that maintained the sense of drama.

The second part of the suite was slower, more measured, with Redmond's lyrical solo setting the tone. Flanigan and Law in turn took essentially melodic solos, each, however, raising the narrative tension a notch, all the while driven by Davis' probing polyrhythms. The third part, a dashing post-bop work-out, featured fiery solos from Flanigan and Law before the quartet crossed the finishing line in tight unison formation.

Flanigan is also an imaginative interpreter and arranger, as his version of Sue Rynhart's "She Has Music" revealed. Dublin singer/composer Rynhart, who lit up Brilliant Corners 2018, is one of the most original of contemporary Irish songwriters, blurring the lines between jazz, folk and poetry. Flanigan's powerful reworking of this wonderfully quirky, and equally catchy tune, with Law unleashing a blistering jazz-rock solo, was a highlight of the evening.

The second set began with Law's bewitching solo interpretation of "Pure Imagination," Leslie Bricusse/Anthony Newley's song from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). This was one of several contributions from Law's impressive Life I Know (Edition Records, 2018)—mostly in the straight-ahead vein—that peppered the set.

A spirited quartet version of "There Will Never Be Another You" and a beautifully weighted solo piano interpretation of "I've Got a Crush on You" underlined Flanigan's exceptional chops. The set-closer, "Overgrowth," a dashing new Flanigan tune, featured expansive solos from the pianist Law and Davis. The crowd clamored for more and the quartet duly obliged with an upbeat and ultimately contemporary version of "All the Things You Are."

Day Three

Brian Irvine Ensemble

Returning to the Black Box following an unforgettable performance at Brilliant Corners 2018, Brian Irvine's Ensemble seems to be enjoying a new lease of life following a decade-long hiatus. The years of the Ensemble's inactivity haven't dimmed Belfast composer-extraordinaire Irvine's passion nor diluted his musical ambition, for the Ensemble's exhilarating performance at BC 2019 was akin to a wicked hybrid of the fire of Charles Mingus' best groups, Frank Zappa's orchestral vision, and the musical agility and left-field humor of the Instant Composers Pool.

The eleven-piece mini big-band, which featured strings, horns, woodwind instruments, piano, electric bass, electric guitar and two drummers, was Irvine's instrument, though the leader was keen to encourage members of the audience—selected without mercy—to conduct the musicians as though they were in charge. At one point three unsuspecting audience members found themselves conducting separate sections of the ensemble, employing an eclectic range of gestures in the process. This unfolded during the opening track, "Strange Beauty (Life is Beautiful if You Leave it Alone"), a tempestuous romp carried on bassist Phil Smyth's infectious ostinato.

Then there were the graphic notation charts that Irvine drew and then thrust at his ensemble with undisguised glee. This improvised compositional technique provided the template for further light-hearted audience participation and kept the ensemble on its toes. Sonic carnage it may have been, but the shenanigans were highly entertaining and revealed much about the transmission, reception and musical translation of non-verbal language.

Framing the levity, however, was contemporary large-ensemble music of breath-taking scope, complexity and beauty. Several new Irvine compositions injected pockets of neo-classical reverie into proceedings, where cello, violin, flute, rumbling percussion like distant thunder and pianist Matthew Bourne's gentle probing conjured eerily beautiful, and beautifully eerie, soundscapes.

Controlled mayhem was only ever just around the corner, and adagio-like passages were soon exploded by bursts of George Clinton-inspired, booty-shaking funk, or on "Friday Night Superman," a pastiche of country and western. Irvine, perhaps keen to ensure that no audience member had the opportunity to slip out the back door, conducted the Black Box in a percussive workshop that evoked light rainfall, heavy rainfall, and with everybody stamping their feet, rumbling thunder. There was also a mass whistling session, which, spookily, sounded as though the Clangers—a popular children's TV show from the early 1970s—had joined some strange cult.

The Clangers lived peacefully and harmoniously on their small, moon-like planet, unlike Earthlings, but Irvine did his level best to sow the seeds of human love. Adopting the persona of a tub-thumping preacher, and, against a serenely uplifting ensemble passage, Irvine leveraged the misery of Brexit to engineer a mass hug-in. With only slightly more evangelical zeal he could probably have prised people's credit cards out of their wallets. A career, perhaps, in waiting. The Brian Irvine Ensemble exited through the crowd to rapturous applause.

There was something Quixotic about such an evident labor of love from all concerned, for Irvine's charts were devilishly difficult. The results, however, were spectacular. Uplifting, life-affirming and riotously entertaining, the Brian Irvine Ensemble should have a weekly residency, somewhere in the world, where its magic can touch the greatest number of people possible.

Day Four

Liane Carroll Trio

Classic vocal jazz stemming from the standards songbook hasn't featured too prominently in previous editions of Brilliant Corners, which, in the main, has focused on more contemporary strains of jazz. In the hands of a master interpreter such as Liane Carroll, however, old tunes sounded as fresh and vital as they day they were coined.

Carroll, a brilliant—and underrated—pianist to boot, could easily have carried this set on her own, but instead chose to marshal two of Ireland's finest jazz musicians in drummer Dominic Mullan and double bassist Cormac OBrien. Their rhythmic stability and nuance provided the perfect foil to Carrol's free-flowing improvisational flair and lent much to the success of the evening.

The first set featured Carroll unaccompanied, the singer demonstrating her way with a ballad on "Skylark" and showing off her masterful scatting, evocative of Ella Fitzgerald, on "Almost like Being in Love." Stylistically versatile, Carroll rolled up her gospel-blues sleeves on the Ray Charles-inspired version of Cindy Walker's "You Don't Know Me," and a slow-grooving, powerful interpretation of Blind Willie Johnson's "Nobody's Fault but Mine," her husky voice perfectly suited to such plaintive material.

A fairly faithful rendition of Tom Waits' "Take if With Me," a light-hearted romp through Eddie Cooley/Otis Blackwell's "Fever" and a lively take on Nina Simone's "My Baby Just Cares for Me" were all pleasing enough, but Carroll was arguably at her most persuasive on two originals; "Seaside"—written by Joe Stilgoe—and the self- penned "Dublin Morning," both evocative and emotionally convincing. The latter tune was part of a medley that peaked with an original take on the Gershwins' "Summertime," that, given Carroll's captivating piano playing, would have worked marvellously as an instrumental.

Expanded to the full trio for the second half, Carrol lead the way through a sassy, scat-charged version of Cole Porter's "Love fort Sale," with O'Brien's sinewy bass solo over Mullan's brushes the highlight. Standards and covers of pop songs—including another Tom Waits ballad—followed, but Carroll was most seductive when swinging, notably on the bluesy, slow-walking "Embraceable You," or an upbeat take of "Old Devil Moon." A funky, Stevie Wonder-esque version of Juan Tizol/Duke Ellington's "Caravan" rounded out the set, with a bluesy workout serving as the encore.

Carroll is not short of awards, nor of plaudits from peers and critics alike, but at the same time there's the feeling that she should be better known. In the generation post-Norma Winstone, Carroll, along with Ian Shaw, surely ranks as one of the greatest European jazz singers/pianists of the past two decades. The enthusiastic response of the Black Box audience left absolutely no doubt as to what it thought.

Day Five

Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri

Finland is not short of noteworthy contemporary jazz/improvising bands but there's arguably none more exciting than the Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri , which was making its first appearance in Ireland. There was a late-change to the line-up, with bassist Eero Tikkanen replaced by Ulf Krokfors, who was the only member of the quartet following sheet music. Composed lines were clear only in the unison motifs of tenor saxophonist Lyytinen and trumpet Verneri Pohjola, which served to bookend tunes, besides which much of the music felt improvised.

Krokfors's mazy momentum, Mika Kallio's lithe stickwork, and the free-spirited back-and-forth between Lyytinen on soprano saxophone and Pohjola announced the opener, "Village Fool." Pohjola's audacious opening solo was as boldly imaginative as it was technically brilliant, giving way to an arresting and soothing harmonic exchange with Lyytinen. Throughout the set the interplay between the two horns was never less than absorbing, blues-inflected for sure, but often exhilaratingly unrestrained.

Kallio's dancing drum intro announced "Triangulum," a rhythmically driving number that saw Verneri push the trumpet to its limits with a breath-taking solo that left him visibly short of puff. Lyytinen's response on tenor saxophone was more economical but no less compelling as he forged a hypnotically unpredictable route. Krokfors briefly detoured away from the sheet music before the quartet returned to the head. High-flying improvisation was just one side of the coin, however, as a serpentine slower number demonstrated. From the deft harmonics of the intro the two horns criss-crossed in phrasing characterized by extended notes, their interplay teetering on the precipice between lullaby and freer excursion.

The melodic heads to nearly all the tunes could almost have come from the hard bop tradition, but the quartet's greater rhythmic elasticity and unrestrained, cliché-free improvisations made for a much more challenging proposition. The slow tempo of "Dreamer's Dance" invited meandering percussive soundings from trumpet and saxophone, with Kallio sculpting a mallets solo of poetic subtlety.

Fiery unison horns announced "Ljubliana," an atmospheric number of shifting tempi that featured Lyytinen on soprano in thrillingly exuberant form. For the encore, the quartet threw off any remaining shackles in a marvelously chaotic circus romp—and thinly veiled political barb —entitled "Mr. President."

The Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkesteri's tremendously exciting performance epitomized all that is good about contemporary jazz. Hopefully it won't be too long before the quartet makes a return visit to these shores.

Day Six

Joseph Leighton Trio

Derry guitarist Joseph Leighton got the last day of Brilliant Corners 2019 off to a great start with an early afternoon gig in The Green Room, the more intimate front-room venue of the Black Box. With Jack Kelly on bass and London drummer Joel Waters rounding out the trio, Leighton delivered a masterly set of standards of a quality that belied the musicians' relative youth. Leighton's star has been in the ascendency since Moving On Music took him under its wing as one of its Emerging Artists in 2016. Numerous duo gigs with David Lyttle and a solo residency in Bennigans Jaz Bar in Derry have helped hone his chops and raise his profile, to the point where he can easily be considered one of the most promising jazz musicians in Ireland.

Opening with Joe Henderson's "Serenity," Leighton demonstrated an understatement that accentuated the warmth in his playing. Kelly, who has played with the guitarist m any times before, supple rhythmic support, while Waters impressed with his deft accents and polyrhythmic flair. His drum solo on "All or Nothing at All" was wonderfully inventive and his playing in general a treat to behold.

Leighton was at his most expansive and articulate on "Everything I Love," but whether bringing contemporary zip to straight-ahead numbers such as "All or Nothing at All," or getting inside the veins of ballads such as "Detour Ahead" and "I Loves You Porgy" with aching delicacy, the guitarist's performance was captivating from first note to last.

The trio signed off with "I'll Be Seeing You," and whilst Leighton took the spotlight with another scintillating solo, his platform was built upon the exemplary comping of Kelly and Waters. This was a highly enjoyable performance from three musicians with bright futures ahead.

Chris Guilfoyle

Dublin guitarist Chris Guilfoyle has played and recorded with his famous bass-playing father Ronan Guilfoyle in multiple settings, including gigs and recording dates with the likes of David Binney and Dave Liebman. Chris Guilfoyle, however, has independently carved a fascinating path with his own quintet Umbra, with whom he released two notable self-produced recordings, the eponymous Umbra (2016) and West (2018), participating also on Christy Doran's multiple-guitar extravaganza 144 Strings For a Broken Chord (Between The Lines, 2018).

For this support slot to Get The Blessing, Guilfoyle gave a solo guitar performance for only the third time in his career. A low, humming drone provided the backdrop to his first piece -a mazy exploration punctuated by chord sequences, repeating motifs and, via his pedal board, layered rhythmic and harmonic voicings, which buoyed and augmented his improvisational flow. By contrast, Guilfoyle then paid homage to his pre-jazz influences with a haunting ambient arrangement of Nirvana's "Drain You" that honored the melody before taking an extended improvisational detour over ethereal sound-scaping. The final piece, perhaps the most clearly through-composed of the short set, saw Guilfoyle unfurl an echo-drenched, fluid solo solo over a dreamily circling motif.

With plans to record solo, Guilfoyle's career as leader is set to enter another fascinating stage.

Get The Blessing

The final act of Brilliant Corners 2019 saw the four-piece Get The Blessing entertain the Black Box crowd with its one-of-a-kind blend of jazz and rock. It could hardly be anything else as its members have also played in bands as diverse as Portishead, Radiohead and Hawkwind. Since its inception in 1999, the line-up has remained stable, though each of its sixth albums has signaled a degree of experimentation—adding guest vocalists, or venturing into electronica, for example. That said, Get The Blessing has always purveyed hook-laden, grooving music, as this storming set featuring the music from Bristopia (Kartel Music Group, 2018) demonstrated.

The gently buoyant opener "Not With Standing" saw Jim Barr's chugging bass and Clive Deamer's skittering brushes underpin the overlapping melodies of tenor saxophonist Jake McMurchie and trumpeter Pete Judge. There was a punkish energy on the short and punchy "Monkfish" from Astronautilus (Naim Jazz, 2015) with its riffing horns and driving beat, an infectious jazz-funk vibe to "Cellophant," and an epic, Tarantino-meets-Morricone film- score feel to "The Second Third."

Grungy jazz-funk, the sort you might imagine Tom Waits cooking up, rubbed shoulders with electronic-filtered psychedelia and the brooding alt-rock of "Bristopia," but whatever direction the music took, driving rhythms and powerful horn lines prevailed. The set wound up with the energized "If it Can it Will" with its driving, rock rhythm and spiraling saxophone. Cheered back on stage for an encore, Get The Blessing dusted off an oldie in the shape of "That Ain't It," an elegant tune built around an impossibly catchy riff. Over unison riffing horns Deamer unleashed his inner Ginger Baker with a blistering solo, the quartet then falling back into sync for the explosive finale.

Highly original and highly charged, Get The Blessing was a great choice to close Brilliant Corners 2019 with, its upbeat performance lifting the spirits of everyone in the Black Box.


Still young by festival standards, Brilliant Corners has grown since its first edition in 2013 and feels mature beyond its years. The success of this year's edition, as in previous years, lay in the breadth and adventure of the program. Whilst certainly inclusive, Brilliant Corners is not afraid to challenge its audiences, which have responded positively to the more outré acts. Seven editions in, in fact, it's probably a safe assumption that Brilliant Corners festival goers expect a few surprises.

Strikingly, the audience make-up throughout the week was diverse, both in terms of gender and age demographics. There were plenty of the regular jazz fans spotted at gigs throughout the year, but plenty more rocked up—students, tourists and an encouraging ratio of twenty—somethings—because of the buzz that Brilliant Corners now generates.

It's to Moving On Music's great credit that it has managed to mount and sustain a small, but undoubtedly international-class jazz festival, in a city the size of Belfast. It's certainly a juggling act. Funding cuts to the arts mean that Brilliant Corners may soon be running on the fumes from an oily rag. Belfast should treasure Brilliant Corners. It's an incubator for young musicians, such as those of the Ulster Youth Jazz Orchestra, a professional launching pad for the country's especially talented musicians, like Joseph Leighton, and a window onto some of the most exciting and inspirational international music. Long may it run.

Photo: Courtesy of Marcin Wilkowski



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