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Dublin Jazz Book Launch at BelloBar

Ian Patterson By

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Dublin Jazz Book Launch
BelloBar
Dublin, Ireland
May 11, 2014

They came out in good numbers to celebrate the launch of the Dublin Jazz Book at the BelloBar in the funky Portobello neighborhood of Dublin. The success of the evening went beyond numbers though, for the publishing of the DJB—essentially a Real Book of compositions by Dublin-based musicians—marks a potentially new chapter in the history of Dublin jazz, jazz in Ireland, and—whisper it quietly—jazz in a global context.

Jazz musicians, many of them contributors to the DJB, turned out in force to participate in a lengthy celebratory jam in the BelloBar that provided evidence of the depth of jazz talent that Dublin currently boasts. The BelloBar is located beneath The Lower Deck pub near the Grand Canal and just around the corner from Synge Street, birthplace of playwright George Bernard Shaw. A relatively new live music venue, the BelloBar was the perfect spot for the DJB launch, with its underground chic, unpretentious furnishing and just the right amount of kookiness.

The DJB was the brainchild of saxophonist Sam Kavanagh, who produced the DJB in collaboration with designer Steven McNamara. Shortly before the doors opened, Kavanagh and McNamara spoke about the DJB , the idea behind it and it and how it became a reality: "It came about from realizing that a lot of the gigs around Ireland are either jazz standard gigs where you can hear music that was written in the 1940s or '50s or even earlier, or where there were a lot of original compositions but always whoever composed the music generally would put together a band, rehearse it a lot for one gig and play a whole gig of just their music," explained Kavanagh.

It was through reading jazz history that a light came on in Kavanagh's mind: "It occurred to me that people used to play each other's compositions all the time because they knew them. They were able to jam on each other's music, on each other's compositions. The standards were modern. I thought to myself, how could they do that? It wasn't just that they gathered together for one gig. They played the tunes a lot, so it occurred to me that it would be really handy if we could look at all these [Dublin] composers' tunes whenever we wanted to learn one and then if we happen to bump into them we can say 'Let's play your tune. That was great. I learnt it last year.'"

The DJB has become a reality in fairly quick time, though for Kavanagh the time scale is relative: "I've never done it before so I'm not sure how quickly it should have been," he says laughing, "but it took a year from sitting with a cup of tea thinking about it to now." There was a belief in the project from the outset and a determination to bring the idea to fruition, as McNamara relates: "We've worked on a lot of projects together already and we work well at actually implementing things. The idea of the Dublin Jazz Book didn't just pop up out of nowhere," he says. "We've talked about jazz and promoting different things a lot. It was the logical progression of how do we make Dublin jazz more accessible, internationally as well? How do we tell people about it and promote it?"

The fifty three tunes by twenty eight musicians represent just a sample of the Dublin jazz scene as of May 2014. Yet in the mixture of compositions by youth and veterans, students and professionals, Dubliners and foreign residents, the DJB nevertheless provides a fairly representative cross-section of the Dublin jazz community: "I guess I was thinking pragmatically in that these are people who are in the local scene that you can see," Kavanagh explains.

The criterion for tune selection was, admits Kavanagh, fairly straightforward: "It was just 'send me a tune,'" he says laughing. "It was simply that. Some people sent more than one tune, in which case we didn't use all of them, but everyone who did send at least one tune is represented."

When pressed, Kavanagh and McNamara admit that the DJB was a big job to realize: "It was a lot of work," says Kavanagh, "but no more than I was expecting and certainly no more than I was happy to do because the end product was in my mind from the beginning."

Reaction to the DJB so far has pleased Kavanagh and McNamara: "It's been great so far," says McNamara. "I think the musicians have been a little bit blown away by the level of professionalism and the quality of the book. Often projects like this are talked about but not implemented to the standard they should be but I think the musicians feel proud that they're in this book, which means that they're proud of their music, which can only be good for the whole jazz scene. I think that's the most important thing."

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