2019 Highlight: Ätsch, Live at Arthur's, matthiaswinklermusic.com

A Dublin-based quartet formed by German guitarist Matthias Winkler three years ago at a time when he was studying music in Ireland. In a John Abercrombie-like space, the best Irish jazz release in 2019 easily: with Winkler are pianist Graham Bourke, …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 7 months.

A Dublin-based quartet formed by German guitarist Matthias Winkler three years ago at a time when he was studying music in Ireland. In a John Abercrombie-like space, the best Irish jazz release in 2019 easily: with Winkler are pianist Graham Bourke, bass guitarist Eoin O’Halloran, and drummer Hugh Denman. Ätsch have their own thing going on that draws on a number of different areas way beyond most jazz however they also circle on the centrality of certain mainstream styles that neither the words “modern” nor “progressive” tacked on as a prefix do justice to. The intertwining nature of these border crossing explorations is what makes these fellas sound fresh. The tunes breathe big, clean air.

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2019 Highlight: O’Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane

The release of O’Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane was probably the most significant ''modern mainstream'' album of the year in terms of UK jazz. Certainly there was no finer interpretation of classic Monk and Coltrane material from these islands to …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 7 months.

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The release of O’Higgins & Luft Play Monk & Trane was probably the most significant ''modern mainstream'' album of the year in terms of UK jazz. Certainly there was no finer interpretation of classic Monk and Coltrane material from these islands to appear this year.

The quartet slows it right down and by doing so captures the essence of ‘I’ll Wait and Pray,’ for instance, the George Treadwell-Jerry Valentine song Sarah Vaughan performed in 1944 with the Billy Eckstine orchestra and that a decade and a half later was interpreted by John Coltrane on what would be issued as Coltrane Jazz.

Dave O’Higgins turns in an exquisite performance and clearly he is at the top of his game. Heard in a different context recently wih Darius Brubeck at the Limerick Jazz Festival underlined the feeling that he is in the form of his life. A saxophone icon of the UK jazz scene of Irish decent O’Hig is in the studio with his band who are new generation guitarist Rob Luft stepping up to act as co-leader, and with drummer Rod Youngs out of Washington D.C. known for his work with Jazz Jamaica – and completing the line-up Belfast organist Scott Flanigan who had first surfaced to wider recognition touring with blues guitarist Ronnie Greer and a significant recruit. Flanigan has James Pearson-like chops at his disposal and that is no small claim.

O’Higgins says: “The music we’ve chosen to play focuses on lesser known Monk compositions and some of the songs Coltrane chose to record in the late-50s, more than the usual few Monk tunes and modal Coltrane so often heard. The choice of Scott Flanigan on organ changes our course from the obvious sonority associated with either musician.” One of the best albums anywhere in 2019.