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John Donegan - The Irish Sextet: Light Streams

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John Donegan - The Irish Sextet: Light Streams
Irish pianist John Donegan may not be a household name, but the Cork musician has walked with giants, playing with the likes of Art Blakey, Art Farmer, Barney Kessel and Ireland's own jazz great, guitarist Louis Stewart. He has also been on something of a roll with his Irish sextet, with Light Streams quickly following on the heels of Shadows Linger (Jayde Records, 2022). And with a third sextet album on the near horizon, Donegan is enjoying an Indian summer.

Once again, Donegan delivers a program of ten original compositions. The format, as on Shadows Linger, stays faithful to the classic hard-bop school of jazz, with catchy heads—played in richly textured unison by tenor saxophonist Richie Buckley, alto and soprano saxophonist Michael Buckley and trumpeter Linley Hamilton—preceding a feast of impassioned solos. Drummer John Daly and bassist Dan Bodwell—possibly the only Irish-speaking American in the country—swing hard, though theirs is a partnership of subtly shifting dynamics which warrants a close ear.

There is more than a hint of John Coltrane's blueprint on "What's This?," with the Buckleys' barreling solos and Donegan's muscular, McCoy Tyner-esque riposte walking a thin line between homage and the sincerest form of flattery. Still, it is hard to resist the tidal force of the collective passion. The Buckley brothers, who carry on a rich family jazz dynasty, are both in compelling form throughout. So too is Hamilton, with his intervention on "Reflect on This" being an album highlight.

Donegan's arrangements take full advantage of the dynamics at his disposal; his multi-part horn lines—for unison and counterpoint—are handsomely committed, while the freer passages that invite saxophones and trumpet to play fast and loose, notably on "Showtime," share something of the swagger of Charles Mingus' ensembles.

However, some of the most alluring play comes at slower tempi. Donegan pens a pretty ballad, with Bodwell delivering a fine solo on the brushes-steered "Along Came Freddie," while tender solos from Michael Buckley, on soprano, and Richie, on tenor, illuminate "Close Nearby." The pick of the bunch is the impressionistic title track, which features an enchanting flute solo from Michael Buckley, and a beautifully weighted response from the leader.

There is a fluid round of baton-passing on the brightly swinging "Seb's Story" and samba-fueled exuberance on "Sinto-me Bem." Donegan is the sole protagonist of "Sonorial," a delicate piano miniature which shows a more introspective side of his playing. The sextet finishes on a rousing note with "Blues for KJ;" Burning solos pepper this infectious number, with its shades of Fats Domino's blues shuffle and proto-rock 'n' roll jambalaya.

With good tunes, handsome arrangements and more cracking solos than one can shake a hurl at, this is a highly enjoyable set from the veteran Irish pianist and a sextet which is really into its stride.

Track Listing

What’s This?; Close Nearby; Reflect On This; Along Came Freddie; Seb’s Story; Light Streams; Showtime; Sonorial; Sinto-me Bem; Blues for KJ

Personnel

Michael Buckley
saxophone
Richie Buckley
saxophone
John Daly
drums
Dan Bodwell
bass, acoustic
Additional Instrumentation

John Donegan: piano; Michael Buckley: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute; Richie Buckley: tenor saxophone; Linley Hamilton: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dan Bodwell: double bass; John Daley: drums.

Album information

Title: Light Streams | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Jayde Records


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