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