Part of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme, remembering the historic events of 1916 that paved the way for independence and foundation of the Republic of Ireland, President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina were in the hall. The concert was a sell out. Pianist Barry Douglas began and before too long rivers ran wide, a stirring version of ‘My Lagan Love’, and deep.

Douglas’ fellow northerner, Enniskillen’s John Kelly, who presented the show in gently gauged lightly droll fashion, filling when needed elaborating to talk about the Irishness of Dusty Springfield, Morrissey... the Beatles (Paul McCartney telling him once that all the Fab Four were Irish, and with great timing, “even Starkey”) to quip having earlier referred to Douglas who opened with what Kelly said was Bach: “there you have it: Classical music was invented in Ireland!”

Truth be told I had come to hear Strabane’s Paul Brady. I wasn’t disappointed, actually the whole concert was amazing, the first of a number of his appearances, a song that went back to the terrible 1800s, and a great version of ‘The Shamrock Shore’ “let us all united be”, still a hope and dream. Later when he came back accompanied marvellously by a pianist on ‘Nothing But The Same Old Story’ it was like having Bob Dylan in the room, a few Knopflerisms notwithstanding, a song that stands up with any of his Bobness’.

John Kelly left and the Imagining Ireland musicians 

The house band musically directed by Kate St. John on oboe/accordion/sax and with Callum and Neill MacColl (sons of the great Ewan) playing quite brilliantly mainly on guitars backed an extraordinary line-up.

After the hail and rain, audience members beginning to arrive, looking on to the Thames

The bereted Kevin Rowland from Dexys (on ‘Carrickfergus’) was like a showband crooner, that tradition as important in Irish popular music as any, the way he spoke the words like melting snow was a real moment to savour, vaudevillian Camille O’Sullivan on an Elvis Costello song, the boisterous Cait O’Riordan on a Pogues song were best of all, yet the hall responded most to the brilliant fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill from The Gloaming, both hugely revered in the trad pantheon, hundreds of feet thundering spontaneously as the violin and guitar became Irish zen and their strict time accelerated to make your heart race. 

The concert united the diaspora effortlessly, with Martin Carthy, Andy Irvine and Paul Brady singing together (Brady picking up an under amplified tin whistle, Irvine on harmonica) who were suitably real and raucous on ‘McAlpine’s Fusiliers’ which the crowd loved and one of the themes quite properly was that the evening was about workers’ solidarity and sheer graft, rising above the pain, in exile. Andy Irvine remembered James Connolly in a historical link in his main spot, a big song beautifully performed by an instrumentalist sui generis. The falsetto of James Vincent McMorrow operated best when the singer made it over to switch from piano to guitar although he was given a little too much time but the surprise of the night was the haunting contribution of Lisa O’Neill, ‘England Has My Man’ early on, surely the toast of Ballyhaise, Cavan town, and now beyond the sea.

Stephen Graham


Shop window dummies are not often known for their energy levels unlike the force field strung up on Mannequins, the title of an album from New York drummer-vibist Kate Gentile. As fry-ups go this is distinctly off the grid.

A free thinking unit featuring Tim Berne pianist Matt Mitchell who Gentile also has a band that she co-leads with called Snark Horse, the much lesser known reedist Jeremy Viner and bassist Adam Hopkins complete the band.

Gentile is not exactly a household name either and not much known beyond the close knit Brooklyn improv scene and is making her debut here, she is influenced by Jim Black and yep Berne, her official website biog notes that she is originally from Buffalo in New York state, arriving in New York city six years ago and name checks a few of her playing credits so far that include, no messing, Anthony Braxton and Kris Davis. Kate studied at the Eastman School of Music, according to the Jazz Right Now blog.

The video sound quality top is pretty lo-fi to be fair and represents the composition that features as the last track of the album in the same way that a photocopy does a painting. However, at least it gives a tracing. Mannequins itself was recorded by one of the great jazz studio engineers Mike Marciano and mastered by David Torn and has handsome sound even on a Soundcloud link.

Gentile implements a lot of great ideas on Mannequins, her open scrabbling loose notion of pulse and beat sitting alongside say how Seb Rochford operates when the ex-Polar Bear drummer allows himself to go free. 

The quartet, wrapping things up, know how to read between the lines beyond notation by second guessing each other’s improvising direction whether in the ruck of group combustion or the darting run outs into the exposed, silently looming, out field. 

Mitchell manages to move into another zone entirely beyond piano on Prophet 6 analogue synthesiser, and the album also contains an exploratory far sighted electronic element that gives more of a sharp focus of an insight into Gentile’s ingenious approach that seems to thrive on a quiet spiky drama all of her own devising.

The issuing label Skirl records has details about how to buy Mannequins, which is released in June. Updated 25/05/17 adding album track ‘Wrack,’ above

If you crave proof as to how the subtleties of the drummer’s beat radically alters jazz and moves you away from relying on the sound of say hard bop that you hold in your head from classic recordings then look no further than A Tribute To Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers out this month on Blue Note records from former Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen.

More bass drum heavy, an Allen innovation, the beat lingering further back on Moanin’ than convention dictates, the horns a little grittier and more approximate, the musical architecture a bit more regular, compare the masterful Allen approach to orthodox big band treatments of similar material such as the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s where the emphasis is more on manicured swing and the zinging spang-a-lang of the ride cymbal and less on the earthy fundamentals of the drum head that Allen manages to harness so well via his own Afrobeat inventions, and you will certainly be pleasantly surprised, enlightened even. Recorded in Paris, listen above to footage, the EP features besides Moanin’, ‘A Night In Tunisia’, ‘Politely’ and ‘Drum Thunder Suite.’ 

“The first release of my large ensemble music,” Alexander Hawkins says, referring to a summertime double CD that marks a decade of the magic touch pianist composer’s ensemble and which is currently streaming. 

Recorded in different London studios two and a half months apart in late 2016-early 2017, compositions on Unit[e] are mainly Hawkins’ plus a piece by the Revolutionary Ensemble’s Jerome Cooper, and a co-write involving all members of the sextet who are violinist Dylan Bates, bassist Neil Charles, guitarist Otto Fischer, Hawkins, reedist Shabaka Hutchings and drummer Tom Skinner all familiar from Step Wide, Step Deep. The first seven tracks feature this sextet, while the last five are the more populated work Hawkins is referring to that happens to involve a 13-piece orchestra. Human’s Stephen Davis is the drummer on the Unit[e] large ensemble while other personnel in the larger outfit also include Dinosaur’s Laura Jurd and Hawkins’ Mulatu Step Ahead bandmate James ArbenA stirringly Art Ensemble of Chicago-like sound adventure where tonalities shift and shudder, rhythms rattle and hum, the double album is released in July on Hawkins’ own label. Before then in a pipeline of releases Hawkins appears on Roberto Ottaviano’s Sideralisand on Human’s highly stimulating Fractured Lands

Passing away yesterday at the age of 84, Mickey Roker, the Miami-born drummer who developed on the scene in Philadelphia and who won the admiration of Dizzy Gillespie, will be remembered most besides his work with Diz, Gigi Gryce and Ray Bryant for his participation on a number of classic albums that include Herbie Hancock’s Speak Like a Child and San Francisco by Bobby Hutcherson. Obituary: at WBGO.