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Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2013

Ian Patterson By

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The rhythm section of double bassist Alex Davis, pianist Albert Sanz and drummer Stephen Keogh lent tight, swinging support on "C'est Si Bon," the slow-burning "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" and "Oh, John." Two of Marie's best interpretations came with Cole Porter's "Let's Do It" and Dave Frishburg's "Pick Me a Grape"—sensuous numbers that sizzled sexily in the singer's hands and underlined Porter's craft in masking earthy, sexual subject matter with poetic innuendo. The self-penned "Weekend" sprang from a terrific bass ostinato and ran its bluesy course with Marie a sultry presence. The title track of the CD rounded off the crowd-pleasing set on a swinging note, with Sambeat finally tearing free.

Courtney Pine is no stranger to the GCJF, having played here several times. This time up he was presenting music from House of Legends (Destin-E Records), inspired by the roots music of the British Afro-Caribbean community. The quartet tore through the rhythms of calypso, soca and zouk at mostly breakneck speed, fueled by Pine's inextinguishable energy. Unfortunately, this was not music best appreciated in the formal setting and atmosphere of a municipal theatre.

In a standing arena or in the open air, such music would inspire a dancing party. Pine did his best to lively up the crowd but there was little energy coming back towards the stage, making for a strangely subdued event. Perhaps the GCJF could use a standing-room venue for such dance-oriented gigs in future. Marketed as such, it would probably also help to draw a younger crowd to the festival.


Pine set out his stall on the opening track with a frenzied soprano solo that set the blueprint for his rather self-absorbed playing throughout the entire show. Samuel Dubois brought a genuine flavor of the Carribean on steel pans, impressing with a firey solo on "Claudia Jones"—Pine's heady calypso tribute to the founder of London's Notting Hill Carnival. Guitarist Cameron Pierre took an extended solo as did Pine, who turned the Everyman into a 19th century English variety hall with a verse of the old nursery rhyme "Pop Goes the Weasel," with the crowd playing its part on the obscure refrain.

Pine switched to EWI when accompanying but only on the final number, "Samuel Sharpe" did he tear into it as he had done on soprano all evening. Though tunes like "Kingstonian Swing" and "House of Hutch" were celebratory in tempo and uplifting melodically, the barrage of solos—mostly from Pine—one after the other grew a little tiring. In a dancing environment such virtuosity can fire a crowd whose energy in turn feeds back to the stage, but sat in the stalls on the receiving end of relentless high voltage virtuosity became energy sapping.

Pine encouraged clapping, standing and clapping, fist waving and general carnival-esque participation, but this wasn't Notting Hill with its teeming streets full of color and energy. Pine gave a typically energized performance but there was little of the nuance and interplay that characterized House of Legends.

One of the most satisfying aspects of GCJF 2013 was the degree to which the Fringe Festival enlivened Cork's streets. Local shops, cafes and restaurants decked their windows with all manner of jazz paraphernalia; there was live music on street corners and in squares and in public spaces such as a church, the library and a former jail; even Cork's mime artists got into the jazz swing of things.

The New York Brass Band, a septet comprised of grooving tuba, swinging trumpet, trombone and saxophone plus percussion animated a packed Duant's Square with its infectious New Orleans funk tunes. Several dancers got their jazz groove on to everybody's delight. Toyin Adelasoye and Camille Roy had traveled from London and Paris respectively just to dance when and wherever possible over the weekend and they found an able partner in Michael Munane of the Cork Jazz Exchange—a dance group that has created a fringe within the Fringe with its 'flash-mob'-style spontaneity.

Performances that transform civic spaces from their everyday function into places of celebration largely mark the character of a city's festival. The real fun is when the lines between performer and audience blur and in this respect the GCJF 2013 was a great success. The only event that didn't quite come off as planned was the New Orleans-style Jazz Funeral March. A large crowd assembled at the artisanal English Market but half an hour after the appointed time there was no sign of movement: "It's like a feckin' funeral" one man observed. Thankfully, the New York Brass Band saved the day with an impromptu performance—perched on a plinth—that breathed life into the gathering.

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