2018 review. “The bark of a dog flew by” — from A Goat’s Song, by Dermot Healy
There, on O’Connell Street, in from the river Garavogue, bartender Declan was smiling.
The opening afternoon of the Sligo Jazz Festival is where our story begins continuing into the evening towards the remains of the day when a new audience of concert goers arrived at the Hawk’s Well theatre for singer Liane Carroll and friends, “ladies of jazz” themed – three nights before the moon dances this weekend at its fullest high over Knocknarea.
Nestled as a major strand within the umbrella of the Sligo Jazz Project that includes Ireland’s most internationally known jazz summer school students for the summer school come from far and wide. Under Declan’s attentive watch for instance Jason, a pianist from Los Angeles, was enjoying the vibe squeezing in among the punters explaining a bit about how great Yoshi’s in Oakland is and enthusing about Joey Alexander. While with a shorter distance to travel another pianist from Warrenpoint, county Down, riffed on how happy he was to be in Sligo as a student after previous visits spectating.
Super busy festival director Eddie Lee, playing double bass in the tiny corner band space teaming with Pigfoot drummer and percussionist Paul Clarvis, the Impossible Gentlemen co-leader guitar great Mike Walker and graceful Irish alto saxophonist/clarinettist Ciaran Wilde, arrived bar side in the break to kindly fetch a beverage for Paul hemmed in by his kit.
As the temperature rose a scrum of jazzers piled in, several standing with their axes on their backs straight from the classroom. Summer school was out for the day. Hargadons was full of players and fans, regulars staking their spots well ahead of the late-afternoon start. ‘Lady Be Good’ and ‘Stardust’ were the highlights for me in a standards strewn set. Chatting to the Jimmy Giuffre-loving Ciaran afterwards by the door we discussed Paul Whiteman and that incredible rehearsal gliss that inspired George Gershwin to write it into Rhapsody in Blue.
The main event of the day was Liane Carroll and Friends in the Hawk’s Well theatre, introduced by BBC Jazz World presenter Linley Hamilton, Hastings singer Liane with equally wonderful singers Emilia Mårtensson and a soulful Sara Colman, the fine Joe Henderson-esque tenorist Meilana Gillard plus David Lyttle on drums always an interesting listen, and WDR big band bassist John Goldsby a rock.
In the short time beforehand I headed to Shoot the Crows nearby and there chatted to short story writer Louise Kennedy about the unity of Samuel Beckett, Morton Feldman, and W. B. Yeats in Séan Doran’s upcoming ‘Three (or more) Billboards Outside Enniskillen & Sligo’ border installation while examining her precious copy of the Selected Poems by the late Dermot Healy just launched at the Tread Softly literary festival which is running concurrently in town alongside the jazz.
In the Hawk’s the pianist Malcolm Edmonstone was a perfect listening accompanist and highlights of the first set for me were the languorous ‘Heaven’, a slice of Sacred Concert Ellingtonia.
WDR big band trombonist Shannon Barnett showed her versatility during her solo features especially when she moved into an avant Samuel Blaser-like space.
Over at the Riverside jamming got underway for the evening session afterwards. Scott Flanigan, above, was on piano early on, Steve ‘Dakiz’ Davis on drums. Cork jazz festival director Sinéad Dunphy was vigilant presiding over the stageside sound desk especially when one young singer needed a bit more volume, and among the many jammers Paul Booth, of the Steve Winwood band, playing on a beautiful vintage Conn tenor saxophone, blew everybody off the stage not that it was a cutting contest at all. What a sound. SG