The Kevin Brady electric quartet, Hawk's Well theatre, Sligo

It's not every day that you get to hear a winner of the Thelonious Monk prize. Winners (it's now called the Hancock) are a very elite collection of players. Seamus Blake, who since has worked with John Scofield and become a leader in his own …

Published: 28 Nov 2021. Updated: 12 months.

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It's not every day that you get to hear a winner of the Thelonious Monk prize. Winners (it's now called the Hancock) are a very elite collection of players. Seamus Blake, who since has worked with John Scofield and become a leader in his own right, won it going back almost 20 years. He was standing tall in sneakers at the front of the Hawk's Well stage with his vintage-looking tenor saxophone miked up in front of a mask-wearing ''small but exclusive'' audience, as his bandmate Bill Carrothers on Fender Rhodes electric piano (actually a Crumar), quipped. Dave Redmond was on ''electric bass'' as his bandleader completing the line-up Kevin Brady on drums termed the Live in Arklow don's axe. Blake wasn't resting on his laurels and produced a blistering display of elaborate highly detailed runs on Brady and Carrothers' material drawn from the quartet's album Plan B recorded before Lockdown and only out now and able to be toured.

The material is very convincing, soaked as it is in a 1970s Milesian vibe and the quartet drew on it entirely during this 90-minute set that opened with 'Airbourne' and followed with the title track. Carrothers was an engaged presence throughout and added a lot of colour to the material, leaning into the keys and stretching back as he squeezed every nuance out of them. Redmond came into his own more and more as the set went on and the material became more mobile as the early numbers had restricted his scalar movement instead requiring him to provide blocks of notes within the vamps. 'Suicide Squeeze' the best tune of all was kept to last and it was entirely worth the wait. SG

The Kevin Brady Electric Quartet all-Ireland tour continues tonight at Magy's Farm, Dechomet, making their debut north of the border, then Billy Byrne's, Kilkenny, on Thursday, Triskel Arts Centre, Cork, Friday, and Bello Bar, Dublin, Saturday. Plan B is in marlbank's top 20 albums of 2021, browse the list: here

Kevin Brady, top. Bill Carrothers, above left, and Seamus Blake

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Brigitte Beraha, By The Cobbled Path, Let Me Out Records ***

Brigitte Beraha nominated for an Ivor composer award this year for a piece the singer and voice experimenter wrote with Dave Manington is here at home with piano and electronics for company. By The Cobbled Path was produced by the jazz-punk …

Published: 27 Nov 2021. Updated: 12 months.

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Brigitte Beraha nominated for an Ivor composer award this year for a piece the singer and voice experimenter wrote with Dave Manington is here at home with piano and electronics for company. By The Cobbled Path was produced by the jazz-punk guitarist Chris Sharkey who himself released a solo guitar and electronics album this year, Presets. Populated whether by weird electronic noises, almost a ghostly choir surrounds Beraha as if we are in a world of Gregorian chant on the discombobulating 'Moonstruck'. It's not a difficult listen and yet it is quite avant-garde. So if you think avant-garde is difficult think again. A critic might ask reasonably enough is it challenging? Yes, because Beraha tackles voice like a mechanic might dismantle an engine and peers at all the little syllables or contrast of the wordlessness that she discovers within her and adds all the glossolalia to hand that she personalises it with say on the remarkable 'I Think My Neighbours Might Be Aliens'. Quirky at times it's positively anti the idea of Billy-No-Mates, Beraha has more than a few imaginary friends as muse. 'Doors' could have just been cute and banal and as irritating as a Pam Ayres poem but is transformed utterly (you'd swear there's almost a puking noise in the playfulness and a few shrieks thrown in for good measure). Beraha does eerie like it's a second tongue. 'On My Bike' with its street noises or 'Strange World (Sur Mon Vélo)' sung in French translates the familiar to become unearthly. Brigitte Beraha, top. Photo: via Bandcamp