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Origin Story At Scott's Jazz Club

Origin Story At Scott's Jazz Club

Courtesy Yaqoub BouAynaya


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Origin Story
Scott's Jazz Club
Belfast, N. Ireland
January 20, 2023

It is a fairly quick jaunt up the motorway from Dublin to Belfast these days and jazz musicians from The Dub are making the journey more frequently than was once the case. Part of the problem was always the lack of a dedicated jazz venue in the northern capital. Pop-up, ad hoc jazz venues would appear and disappear just as quickly. But now Belfast has Scott's Jazz Club, a reimagined social space in East Belfast with good acoustics and professional sound and lighting that programs local, national and international artists every Friday night.

Scott's Jazz Club opened its doors during the pandemic (only in Ireland!) and has proven to be a roaring success, with most concerts sold out. It is quite a story, but it is a story for another time. This evening was all about Origin Story, the trio of pianist Greg Felton, bassist Cormac O'Brien and drummer Matthew Jacobson.

Origin Story last crossed All About Jazz's path at the Galway Jazz Festival in 2016. At the time, the freshly minted trio went by the name of F-Job, an risqué-sounding anacronym drawn from the musicians' names. It seemed like a clever idea at the time. But with old age comes wisdom. Council was held and a change of name deemed important. "We looked for the two best possible words we could find." O'Brien explained to audience in Scott's Jazz Club. "This is what we came up with."

And they were the best two words. Hailing from the south side of Dublin, the three are alumni of the same secondary school. They would all go on to study jazz at Newpark and are currently all teaching jazz at Dublin City University. The origin of the trio's music, a shared love of jazz/improvised music aside, stems from the deep well of mutual understanding that comes from decades-long friendship.

The trio's name is not the only thing that has changed since its inception. The music has too, in substance if not in essence. The balance has shifted away from standards old and new (Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk, Gene de Paul, Paul Simon) to original material and the guts of the evening's set came from Origin Story's self-produced debut album, Good Friday (2020).

It was the album's sprightly title track that got the set rolling, a hip drum and bass groove underpinning a pleasingly idiosyncratic solo from Felton. A four-note piano vamp returned the honors for Jacobson, whose crisp, brief solo worked skin and metal without jettisoning the groove. A more open-ended feel colored Jacobson's "Bergen St," with the drummer switching from broomsticks to brushes and finally sticks as the music grew. Even in the heat of a three-way improvisational exchange, a sense of determined groove was ever-present.

With each musician contributing tunes, Origin Story's music refuses to rest in a stylistic mould. Felton's brooding ballad "Regarding Time" opened up acres of space for O'Brien. The bassist also featured on another gently simmering, steadily grooving Felton composition with the working title "May Tune No.1." In between, bluesy revelry held sway on a lively rendition of Ornette Coleman's "Turn Around," with Felton in sparkling form.

At one point in the set Jacobson observed how Origin Story is a vehicle that allows the three to work with their own material that doesn't fit naturally in any of their other projects. That was probably also true of the trio's hard-driving interpretation of The Lovin' Spoonful's anthem "Summer In the City." Felton attacked his keys with joyful abandon, unleashing tumbling blues runs, punchy rhythmic phrasing and lightning-fast karate chops.

The second set began with a strikingly original take on Juan Tizol's "Caravan" characterized by Jacobson's samba-esque swing and O'Brien's walking bass. The bassist introduced his composition "Squirk" by acknowledging the influence of Ornette Coleman, but there was a hint of Thelonious Monk too, in a tune whose tempi roved from boppish terrain to free-jazz and, in a slow-motion passage, an area altogether less mapped.

Pin-drop silence framed Jacobson's "Undone," an engrossing slow number of some refinement that provided the perfect vehicle for O'Brien to shine with a solo of deeply felt lyricism. The trio revisited the blues on Cliff Burwell/Mitchell Parish standard "Sweet Lorraine" and closed out with Felton's "Rum," a calypso-fuelled jaunt of sunny disposition, featuring a wonderfully playful solo by the pianist, and wrapped up in a bow by Jacobson's fireworks.

The audience, a proper listening audience, made up for its impeccable behavior during the gig by roaring and whooping like loonies for an encore. Felton, Jacobson and O'Brien repaid the gesture with a charged version of Thelonious Monk's "I Mean You," marked by tasteful solos from O'Brien and Jacobson.

Origin Story's respect for tradition, and its bending of the very same, lies at the heart of its appeal. This was a fine gig by a trio whose progress to greater things, you feel, is only held back by the myriad projects of its respective members. Hopefully, a new chapter in the story isn't too far off.



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