Guinness Cork Jazz Festival: Cork, Ireland October 28-31, 2011

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival: Cork, Ireland October 28-31, 2011

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Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2011
Cork, Ireland
October 28-31, 2011
One of the few nice things about October is the pleasure of returning to Cork, the perfect city for a jazz festival, and being met by that great Irish hospitality. Arriving at the airport, all shiny and modern, and wondering how to get into town, suddenly Michael Wallis appears. Wallis has been there for the last couple of years—not planned, you understand—but there all the same and prepared to whisk our luggage and us to his people carrier and thence to the Metropole Hotel in downtown Cork. Getting out at the hotel, there was this amazing feeling of Irish warmth. "It's the craic, don't you know," Wallis explains.

And so a whirlwind weekend of gigs begins.

The world of jazz is, by its very nature, an ever-changing landscape of musical and social development. The Cork School of Music, under Director John O'Connor, can be relied upon to host several excellent events and produce the young talent from around the world to give those events shape and excitement. The program, organized by the Global Music Foundation, includes master classes and lectures.

This year's high spots included an ensemble workshop led by the great Kansas City altoist Bobby Watson, who served four years with drummer Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers before going on to play with drummers Max Roach and Louis Hayes, as well as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and many others. Watson was joined on the stand by New York pianist Bruce Barth, Canadian bassist Duncan Hopkins and homegrown drummer Stephen Keogh, who now lives near Barcelona and is one of the founding directors of The Global Music Foundation. The ensemble ambled into "There Is No Greater Love," followed by "Good Bait," written by Tadd Dameron for the Count Basie Orchestra. The group then answered questions from the young audience and ended the session with a blues in C minor.

Friday evening's events took place at the new Triskel Christchurch Arts Center—not the most comfortable of venues, as they have left the old pews from the church in place. First up was the Linley Hamilton quartet, four Irish lads from Belfast. Trumpeter Linley, pianist Little Johnny Taylor, bassist Dan Bodwell and drummer Dominic Mullen delivered a competent set of music that, unfortunately, lacked that essential element of true improvisation so gloriously provided by the next band on stage, the aforementioned Bobby Watson Quartet. Watson and, in particular, Barth, took the place apart with storming work ably assisted by Keogh and Hopkins. Their work, in stark contrast to the previous band, demonstrated precisely the requirements for a stunning jazz gig.

On Saturday, Barth delivered an intimate piano master class at the Cork School of Jazz, launching into a demonstration of how the whole body should be deployed, and using a member of the audience, Melody McLaren, who chose "On Green Dolphin Street," for a duet with Barth.

Close on the heels of the Barth master class was an audience with the God-like figure of veteran bassist and founder of London's Bass Clef Club, Peter Ind. With his flowing white hair and bass, Ind talked from the heart about the importance of musicality. The need for every note to be played with total commitment. He demonstrated his love of the music simply by his words of wisdom and his playing solo bass for a full hour.

Saturday night was reserved for the headliners—bassist Kyle Eastwood, whose over-amplified set was marred by the total absence of any truly improvised music, and trumpeter Randy Brecker. Back at the Metropole, drummer Ric Yarborough and his band—winner of the first prize for the festival's 2010 Cork Jazz Futures Competition—gave an inventive and polished performance which demonstrated consistent development of the group's sound, having retained the same lineup (guitar, alto, bass and drums). Special mention goes to altoist Alex Woods and bassist Hamish Livingstone, who have made considerable progress since last year.

Finally, on Sunday, Pete Churchill—with his amazing ability to hold the soprano, alto, tenor and bass parts of quite a complex spiritual in his head, while encouraging both the choir and the audience to sing—was again a true highlight of the festival, along with a samba class, led by Francesco Petreni, where even the author took part, playing tambourine along with a whole host of drums, which produces a mind-blowing sound of true audience involvement.

Altogether, the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival 2011 was enjoyable experience, but a word of warning to the organizers: do not lose sight of the importance of retaining the jazz credentials of the Festival. It's all part of the craic.

Photo Credit
Melody McLaren


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