O’Dowd & Quinn organic jazz and traditional Irish winning blend
Pianist Kieran Quinn and singer-guitarist Seamie O’Dowd have just released Melodic Reflection, an album recorded and mixed in the Ventry studios in Balbriggan which was launched recently at a concert in Sligo town’s Hawk's Well theatre. Long time musical collaborators, they are making their first album together in duo, “We describe it as trad fusion,” Kieran says. “It starts off with traditional Irish music, but goes to lots of places, and incorporates jazz and some other styles. Improvisation is plentiful and there are times it really swings!” ‘Dirty Old Town,’ by the great Ewan MacColl, folds in, Kieran says “a ‘Freddie Freeloader’-type piano solo,” an erudite reference to the unforgettable touch of Wynton Kelly on Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue. Kieran’s Burt Bacharach theme night I very much enjoyed, warm love in the Velvet Room, catching it three years ago. The popular pianist led a band on that occasion who included NoCrows’ Eddie Lee on bass guitar, with Ciaran Wilde, leader of the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra, and Cathal Roche comprising the horn section, singers taking part that night including O’Dowd and Dervish legend Cathy Jordan.
Opening with The First Dance there is an engaging undemanding atmosphere yet there is plenty going on, a tidal sweep from the duo, the album firmly Celtic acoustic. The Lower East Sidestep is more of a song in a way, the yearning rhapsodic side of Quinn's introduction introducing crystalline guitar lines and it is the intertwinings that capture your imagination, a travelogue in their observed benevolence, almost as if the pair are looking on as bystanders as the world goes by.
The Musical Priest, a traditional tune the Dubliners among others have covered often heard on a flute or whistle, draws on a Django-like gypsy swing to begin with before hurtling into a whirl of energy dampened down by the laidback Hoagy Carmichael atmosphere of the opening to Dirty Old Town, O’Dowd’s voice on the latter superbly mellow and a contrast to how you usually hear the song in pubs the length and breadth of Ireland as it is such a staple. The two sound at ease and that is something very evident on the album but there is no sense of any complacency and among the joy some serious moments too. The Reel Movement is absorbing and after its three-blind-mice-like opening motif the blending of guitar and piano is purer than ever and the album is very nicely recorded maybe brewed is a better way of trying to convey its liquidy textures as the raw materials are so natural sounding and there is definitely a lot of craft emerging from within the overall intimate canopy of sound.
Travelling Nation is the big song in terms of depth and contains a grandly stirring chorus, a very poignant theme beautifully conveyed, O’Dowd again first class (as distinctive and owning as big and flexible a voice as say Luka Bloom) and that poignancy is a further theme delivered so tenderly on And the Children Play while the traditional Irish instrumentals as substantial fare also serve to fill the album out.