The best Irish jazz album this year - the other we reckon up there as best example of what's excellent in the small and relatively unknown to the wider world Irish jazz scene is the completely different punk jazz of Robocobra Quartet and Living Isn't Easy. The Irishness of the sound is immediate in the gracenotes evident on 'Caoimhe's Tune' right at the beginning of On the Other Hand which borrows from the accents and trajectories that you hear in the arc of an Irish traditional music piece and again later on 'Augmented Reality'. There is no attempt to fuse traditional Irish music and modern mainstream styles - they just sit alongside each other perfectly well. Away from the Irish trad it is hard not to think of Brad Mehldau when listening to Cork pianist and composer Cormac McCarthy who has already proved his discipleship to Mehldau's Highway Rider on Cottage Evolution. 'Port Road' is a lovely ballad that dreams its way along the pick of all. More broadly solo piano albums such as On the Other Hand produced by Crash Ensemble artistic director cellist Kate Ellis can be terribly clinical and remote. But not this at all. The seriousness of intent is there nonetheless. Let's hope that McCarthy becomes better known beyond the auld sod given the great quality of deftly executed ideas that he has delivered here - For this soul needs to be honoured with a new dress woven/From green and blue things and arguments that cannot be proven (Patrick Kavanagh). Cormac McCarthy, photo: Bandcamp.
- Last year's top Irish jazz album was The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet's Plan B