The Barinthus Suite (David Lyttle/Eddie Lee group) / Kenny Werner trio, Hawk's Well Theatre, Sligo Jazz Festival

From 2013. Inspired by the megalithic scenery and ancient Celtic lore of county Sligo and Coney island, David Lyttle and Eddie Lee’s ‘Barinthus suite’, an expansive meeting of musical idioms drawing together strands of modern jazz and traditional …

Published: 3 Dec 2019. Updated: 17 days.

From 2013. Inspired by the megalithic scenery and ancient Celtic lore of county Sligo and Coney island, David Lyttle and Eddie Lee’s ‘Barinthus suite’, an expansive meeting of musical idioms drawing together strands of modern jazz and traditional Irish folk music, presented back projected against some of the extraordinarily beautiful scenery and locations that inspired the piece, was premièred in the Hawk’s Well theatre on the third night of the festival.

The instrumentation, a jazz rhythm section including guitar, plus saxophone, and in a place of a string section an Irish traditional music combo retaining violin with banjo, accordion, low whistle and particularly bodhrán a feature. The scope of the piece, which visually was represented by images of stone and sea (Barinthus being the Celtic god of the sea) developed from pianist Kenny Werner’s opening section which, with a small leap of the imagination, picked up on intimations of John Field, the early nineteenth century Irish composer who was an influence on Chopin, and then developed into a huge sumptuous vamp. John Joe Kelly on bodhrán was a huge plus adding light and shade to Lyttle’s intuitive rhythm patterns while Lee on double bass was a beacon of the beat. Jean Toussaint played his part well on a saxophone-flavoured section of the suite that recalled the film writing of Chico Hamilton a little and he drew out the tenderness of the arranging. “Feasting on the treasures of the sea,” as Lee’s monologue at the beginning had it, was an apt way of describing the piece, an adventure that worked.

Kenny Werner returned after the break for a trio set joined by the WDR Big Band's John Goldsby on bass and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra’s John Riley, drums. Highlights of the set whose scope included Werner’s own ‘Iago’, with its bittersweet heart-on-sleeve melody, the amusingly-introduced ‘Balloons’, Dave Brubeck’s laconic ‘In Your Own Sweet Way’, and Miles Davis’ ‘Nardis’. Throughout Werner was able to run with his instincts and let the music flow. Goldsby’s light samba and bossa touches the pianist developed to the nth degree although even the more rococo touches did not seem irrelevant. Riley was stern and in control and particularly as a tune unwound he was able to move beyond the bridge into that area where a certain transition takes place and true improvisational alchemy lives. The clever segue at the end from what sounded like a hint of Township flavours into the main theme of ‘Nardis’ made connections only a player of such quality and finesse as Werner could maintain. SG

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NoCrows, Waiting for the Tide, nocrows.net

From May 2014. At home as much with the sounds of Catalonia and South America as they are with gypsy swing and Irish traditional music, NoCrows, now a six-piece, release the folk-flavoured Waiting for the Tide on 24 May. Founded in 2005 in Sligo pub …

Published: 3 Dec 2019. Updated: 5 months.

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From May 2014. At home as much with the sounds of Catalonia and South America as they are with gypsy swing and Irish traditional music, NoCrows, now a six-piece, release the folk-flavoured Waiting for the Tide on 24 May. Founded in 2005 in Sligo pub Shoot the Crows, originally as a four piece, the band released At the Strand – Live in 2006 followed by Magpie two years later, and then On the Moon in 2010.

Material for the new album was written following trips to Sligo bay’s Coney Island, a spot that also inspired the band’s bassist Eddie Lee’s jazz and traditional music composition 'The Barinthus Suite' co-written with David Lyttle premiered last year.

With Eastern European gypsy influences part of the NoCrows sound partly courtesy of violinist/composer Oleg Ponomarev (known for his work with go-ahead world jazz outfit Yurodny) who has written two of the compositions here to add to the other band-written charts, Waterboys fiddler Steve Wickham pays tribute to Sligo itself on the superbly sentimental ‘Rainbow over Sligo’. The other members of No Crows besides Wickham, Ponomarev, and Lee, are the Mallorcan guitarist Felip Carbonell and Swiss cellist/mandolinist Anna Houston, with Sligo singer-songwriter Ray Coen coming fully on board to effect.

Opening charmingly with ‘The Pendulum’ a piece that gathers eventually opening out into a kind of a swung rumba. ‘Save the Corncrake’ begins with a rattly croak and is more like a traditional Irish reel led by persuasive violin while ‘(Blame it on) the Good Times’, one of the big songs of the album, is more a questing folk number with a strong melody: ‘The moon shines a pale light/I’ve got my shadow by my side/And tonight I feel all right’. Sharing ‘‘rhythm reel and rhyme’’ it’s a song about shared experience but with a certain sadness to it. ‘The Cosy Eye’ opens stealthily with softly falling pizzicato before guitar chord changes add some deft motion entering a traditional Irish soundspace, but one that’s more syncopated, the extra dots on the page jazz-simpático: a lovely intimate dance of a thing.

‘Fintan Waltz’ enters the world of antique gypsy swing more, there’s a jaunt to it the violin hurtling the tune into a distant time a little like the 1940s world of the quintet of the Hot Club of France. ‘Heyka’ has a strong eastern European feel to it while the big song, a homage to the town by the Garavogue under the spell of Knocknarea, ‘Rainbow over Sligo’, has a Chris Rea-like quality to it with its heart on sleeve immediacy the vocal raw and heartfelt: “There was no need to take a picture/It’s been sitting there for days/High above the skyline/all of Sligo Bay its stage.” Stephen Graham