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Galway Jazz Festival 2018: Day 2

James Fleming By

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The cello played a bluesy riff, and Vloeimans’s tone moved from wide and hazy to hard and stony. The accordion entered with notes like needle-jabs: high and pointed and piercing. And the band moved into mournful territory.
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Various Venues
Galway Jazz Festival
Galway, Ireland
October 5, 2018

Thursday night's curtain rose on a brighter day, and a breeze blew gently down Galway's streets carrying the smell of the city on its back: petrol, coffee, sea-salt, cigarettes. Late-arrivers hurried down the cobbles to their workplaces. The growl of delivery vans filled the street between the businesses that line the main drag, spitting exhaust fumes that drifted up to the sky and were blown apart by the wind.

The day moved through its phases, following the sun's track across the sky from the Carpio, Drennan and O'Lochlain Trio's lunchtime gig at the Black Gate, through the afternoon's Polish Jazz Vinyl DJ Set in 1984 Miracles, and on to Eric Vloeimans' show in the Mick Lally Theatre -an intimate venue tucked away down Druid Lane, a narrow, cobbled trail that juts off from Quay Street's bustle where silence hides itself from the wildness of Galway's city centre nightlife.

The auditorium's high, grey back wall loomed over Vloeimans' trio: himself on trumpet, Tuur Florizoone on accordion, and Jorg Brinkmann on cello. A greyness that the band used as a canvas. Painting vivid and cinematic tapestries across its wide blankness.

"Aladdin" set the tone. Evoking the bone-dry expanse of the title's Arabic homeland, Vloeimans wide and lamenting tone hung like sunlight over the snaking cello line. A line that became chordal, setting a firmer ground beneath the trumpet's feet. Vloeimans coaxed snake charmer-esque melodies out of his horn as hypnotic as the python Kaa's coils. Below these serpentine airs, Florizoone's accordion droned. Carrying the gossamery beauty of his bandmates' playing through solos and over volume swells and across treacherous pauses. Alighting at last on the gentle finale. A finish soft as the edges of a mirage.

On a rolling rhythm tapped out on the accordion's body, in a chariot with wheels of pizzicato cello chords, the strains of "Prince Henry" filled the room. The trumpet's tone was wide, and it spread out before the crowd like the horizon. Brinkmann started to strum the chords while the accordion filled the gap between brass and strings as echoes fill a cave. The trumpet-tone hardened. And the volume swelled like a wave preparing to break before it crashed into the accordion's solo. Vloeimans kept a rhythm with the atonal breaths he spat out of the trumpet's bell. Before he tightened his grip on the trigger. And fired out bursts of a single note. And far above the bowed cello's earth Vloeimans's trumpet-voice tightened and sharpened itself to a pinpoint. Flowing on to the wider and softer tones of the cadence. Moving through a rainbow of tone-colours brilliant as the hues of Bifröst, the old Norsemen's legendary rainbow-bridge between the realms of men, giants and gods. The link that connects the earthly with the fantastic and on to the godly as music does.

Through the 3/4 time of the following tune and the galloping rhythms of "Tonto," the trio moved. Before the stately intro of "Imagining" swept over the audience. And the cello moved up from the depths of quietness to join it with a bowed, very classical melody. Brinkmann's bow-hand flew passionately over the strings while his fretting fingers shot like lightning-bolts over the neck. Occasionally pulling wide vibrato out of a note. As if he were trying to milk all the subtleties from it. To extract the metal from its ore.

The trumpet sneaked in almost unnoticed. Its notes lying in wait beneath the passions of Brinkmann and Florizoone. Awaiting its chance to leap from the shadows cast by their vigour. To reach out and take its chance to shake the airwaves.

And then it entered not with a bang, but with the lyrical sparseness of a baked plain. In a tone pure as spring water, Vloeimans flicked between the notes quickly as Brinkmann downed his bow. So he could pick and strum the strings while Florizoone played huge wall-like chords. Building up only to come down for a slowed ending. And the return of Vloeimans's breathy, spare tone.

Over the funky accordion-rhythms and bebop runs of "Blues Bodies," the band came to their pre-encore finale. A tune called "Kwaheri," which means goodbye in Swahili. And it opened with the unmusical sound of air whooshing through the accordion's body. Mirroring the sound of the wind shimmering across the grass of Africa's savannahs.

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