Guitarist Nguyên Lê has recorded a new studio album to be released by his long term label ACT this autumn celebrating Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon collaborating with the NDR Big Band playing arrangements mainly by the French Vietnamese player with orchestrations by Mike Gibbs, with featured artists singer Youn Sun Nah, drummer Gary Husband, and bass guitarist Jürgen Attig. Tracks include songs from the classic album, and Nguyên Lê's own compositions. Nguyên Lê, above. Photo: Patrick Essex/ACT
Al Jarreau on My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke (Concord ****) honours the legacy of keyboardist George Duke who died last year and whose friendship with Duke went back to the mid-1960s when Jarreau was working as a social worker in San Francisco. With guest appearances by Gerald Albright, Dianne Reeves, Marcus Miller, Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Boney James, Kelly Price, and Dr. John, Duke also appears on the track ‘Bring Me Joy’. Stanley Clarke is also an important part of the album recorded mainly at the Village Studio in LA on a number of tracks (as well as co-producing some tracks) among some stellar names in the various band personnel configurations, including keyboardist Greg Phillinganes, and Patrice Rushen, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr, and percussionist Lenny Castro.
The title track ‘My Old Friend’ featuring saxophonist Gerald Albright Jarreau sang on early-1980s hit record Breakin’ Away a number that Duke appeared on while virtually all the other songs are Duke’s, including his Tutu ‘Backyard Ritual’ tune featuring Marcus Miller with Jarreau penning lyrics to become ‘Churchyheart (Backyard Ritual)’, candlelit rhymes chasing the blues away as the lyric has it, vocal against trumpet and formidable bass (later with a fine bass clarinet solo from Miller) that develops eventually into a loose scat rap by the end. Jarreau says in his liner notes in a letter to Duke that on this album he and his friends were there to make “some musical smiles”, and that’s really the album in a nutshell, a very sophisticated soul-pop-jazz hybrid that engages throughout. The gorgeous ‘Sweet Baby’ featuring a duet with Lalah Hathaway and finding Stanley Clarke on bass and backing vocals (the track was on 1981’s Clarke/Duke Project) is one of the easy standouts along with the joyous ‘Every Reason to Smile’ segueing into ‘Wings of Love’, featuring Jeffrey Osborne, the latter from Osborne’s self-titled solo debut, while Clarke is superb backing Dianne Reeves on ‘Brazilian Love Affair.’ SG Al Jarreau, top. Photo: Marina Chavez / Concord
In an added extra at the Sligo Jazz Festival this year in the atrium of the Model, the arts centre home to the extraordinary Niland collection of Jack B. Yeats paintings, and earlier at lunchtime in St Edward’s school where the Sligo Jazz Project’s summer school has been taking place, actor Barry Cullen performed a monologue based on interviews the great comedian and writer Spike Milligan, who had deep Sligo roots, granted to a number of writers, airing Spike’s thoughts about jazz and the music's extraordinary effect on him. The young actor drew on the tenderness and passion of Milligan in his performance, the Goon’s words interspersed with clips of music by Bill Evans, Django Reinhardt, and Ornette Coleman.
At the Hawk’s Well theatre later in the evening the Christian Scott band was delayed as the airline had gone and lost some of the band’s luggage, so the band ending up taking to the stage an hour late, the set not quite as planned with missing instruments a factor. Scott, sporting a smart snood-type scarf, was unabashed, exuberant as he dug into bravura solo breaks playing his customised Dizzy-like trumpet with its horn set at a rakish angle.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah performing at the Hawk's Well
Pianist Lawrence Fields' style was characterised by strongly rhythmic quartal harmony all night on the Steinway before switching to Fender Rhodes for the encore. The front line was Scott, alto saxophonist Braxton Cook, tart and tough when needed, and the very impressive 19-year-old flautist/vocalist Elena Pinderhughes new in the band this past week, a presidential scholar at the Manhattan School of Music. Her style recalled a young Bobbi Humphrey. Corey Fonville (above, just visible to the right of Scott) was a strong and active polyrhythmic presence on drums laying back a little on the featured vocal spots when the band were joined by Scott’s wife singer Isadora Mendez Scott. The couple married last year and held hands at one point on stage. Scott has real personality when he plays, displaying strong involving soloing momentum, his tunes blessed with a strong melodic anthemic sense channelling Milesian jazz-rock and scintillating meta-funk rhythms referencing Scott’s New Orleans roots. Bassist Kris Funn was a busy presence throughout and needed to be as the tension was ratcheted up. Scott’s garrulous band intros, at least five minutes long for each musician, were far too much but apart from this it was an engrossing set, protest song ‘Ku Klux Police Department’, commenting on police brutality, the highlight.
Fifth on Teeling: jammers’ delight
Later at Sligo music venue Fifth on Teeling tutors and students performed and jammed on two stages, the North and South Irish Jazz Allstars led by Belfast trumpeter Linley Hamilton who had earlier emceed at the Hawk’s Well, the main draw. Hamilton was joined by the great jazz writer Mingus biographer Brian Priestley on keyboards, Mike Nielsen, guitar, Matthew Halpin and Cathal Roche, saxophones, Damian Evans, bass, and Steve Davis, drums. On a separate student stage tucked in near the Fifth on Teeling front door flautist Sarah Chaplin was among the jammers to make a strong impression as summer school participants took to the stand adding to the lively atmosphere until well into the wee small hours.
The Saturday lunchtime set was at Rafferty’s pub on Lord Edward Street near the town’s bus station, Hamilton joined by Evans again, plus guitarist Julien Colarossi, pianist Johnny Taylor, and drummer Dominic Mullan playing a set studded with tunes from Hamilton’s excellent recent album In Transition. Among the numbers to stand out overall in this well attended, mellow gig ‘Dinner at 8’, ‘Without a Song’, crowd favourite ‘Happy People’, and Abbey Lincoln’s ‘Throw It Away’, were the pick. Report & pics: Stephen Graham Barry Cullen, top, at the summer school; Christian Scott in the Hawk's Well; and Fifth on Teeling just before the jam. The Sligo Jazz Project continues tonight featuring Pee Wee Ellis guesting with Mob Peppers at Fifth on Teeling (from 10pm); and the SJP International All Stars taking to the stage of the Hawk's Well