A standout tune of the set came with the Lyttle original "Summer Always Passes." Written during a five-week British Council residency in China in 2017, and inspired by a Chinese proverb that cautions against resisting natural change, Leighton's trilling guitar and Lyttle's cymbal splashes and bird-song whistle were highly evocative. The real meat and bones of the tune, however, resided in the meeting between painterly melody, boppish bursts and hip-hop-inspired rhythms. Lyttle is an accomplished composer and the concert would have been in no way diminished by a greater balance between jazz standards and his original compositions.
Leighton was particularly captivating on a very pretty reading of "My Ideal," a song he features in his solo gigs, and on the ballad "Old Folks"-demonstrating an emotional depth to his technically advanced playing. There was some feisty duo dialogue on "Body and Soul" and intricate rhythmic interplay on the elegant "Windows" -a heartfelt tribute to the late, great Louis Stewart
, with whom Lyttle played for a while in the early 2000s. An impressive concert concluded with Charlie Parker
's "Segment," an up-tempo vehicle for final hurrahs from both musicians.
Lyttle is well-established as a world-class drummerone of several strings to his bow-and it's always a thrill to catch his gigs. But this was an exciting opportunity to witness the special talent that is Joseph Leighton, in a venue the size of your living room. At just twenty one years of age, the Derry guitarist is just starting out, but the early signs point to a distinguished career ahead. There will be more duo gigs from Lyttle and Leighton on the second leg of this Irish tour in Novemberkeep an eye on Lyttle's website for detailsand the duo is already looking ahead to 2019.
That's great news for music lovers, regardless of their degree of familiarity with jazz. Music this good, played with such expertise, passion and pizzazz, can connect with almost anyone.
Photo: Courtesy of Joan McGandy/Keady Clachan