One of Ireland's leading promotors of jazz/contemporary music, Improvised Music Company is best known internationally for its award-winning 12 Points Festival
. In the early days of Bray Jazz Festival, Godley forged collaborative alliances with the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and Belfast's Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. Since taking over the reins Killeen has aligned with promotion agencies Going Dutch, Jazz Migration and Le Bureau Export to continue bringing the best in cutting edge jazz/contemporary music to Bray Jazz Festival.
As with any festival, big, or like Bray, relatively small, success lies in building a good working team, where everybody knows their roles. "We've had a really good team of people that have worked with us over the years," acknowledges George. "Paul Ashebrown, the sound guy, has been with us for eighteen of the last twenty years. He's been around the industry for a lot longer than us. Ciaran Ryan, our piano man too."
Of course, problems both trivial and not so trivial arise in the course of running a jazz festival, but the Jacobs have developed coping strategies over the years. "It's only difficult when things go wrong but our experience is that people who work in jazz are very forgiving," says George.
"Maybe you're calmer in your mid-fifties than you were in your mid-thirties and you've also been over the jumps for twenty years so if this problem arises this is the person to call. We've also learned over the last ten years not to insert yourself into every problem and get between the people that should be speaking to each other. If there's an issue with the piano I can't tune it but we're there if people need us and sometimes you're the only port of call."
How they go about the business of running a jazz festival is as important, Dorothy says, as the results themselves. "We have great respect for people in general, that's all people not just the artists -whoever is working us. In life you're meeting with different people, trying to get jobs done, and if you have everybody wanting to get that done that really helps. That only comes with having respect, honesty, clarity, a bit of fun, and when it goes wrong figuring out how to make it better."
Musically, Bray Jazz Festival has gone from strength to strength, and the appearance of Fred Herschplaying soloand John Scofield's Combo 66 should ensure full houses once more in the Mermaid Arts Centre. "For our twentieth festival they were kind of statement signings, to use football parlance," says George.
In truth, though, it's been twenty years of statement signings -of marquee names, progressive young talent and the best of Irish jazz. Even in the lean times, Bray Jazz Festival has never failed to present a line-up that is exciting, challenging, and just occasionally provocative.
It's been a hell of a ride for Dorothy and George Jacob, one too full of highlights to pick out just one or two. "You're just witnessing so much talent that it can be overwhelming," says Dorothy. "The whole emotional spectrum from soulful and introspective to the crazinessit's what music does for people, I guess. It's the moments where you see people coming out of a gig completely and utterly transported. It's enriching to have witnessed it."
Photo credit: Ian Patterson