Track of the day: 'Abichu Nega Nega' by Hailu Mergia

Ethio-jazz icon keyboardist Hailu Mergia has a new album soon, his first in a couple of years. Called Yene Mircha in the Amharic language (''My Choice'' in English) it is to be released in late-March on the Awesome Tapes From Africa label. Drawn …

Published: 28 Jan 2020. Updated: 2 years.

Ethio-jazz icon keyboardist Hailu Mergia has a new album soon, his first in a couple of years. Called Yene Mircha in the Amharic language (''My Choice'' in English) it is to be released in late-March on the Awesome Tapes From Africa label. Drawn from the album, 'Abichu Nega Nega' (meaning ''How Are You, Abichu?'' a Mergia arrangement of a traditional piece) is streaming.

Setegn Atenaw who plays the mesenqo (a single stringed lute), vocalist Tsehay Kassa and saxophonist Moges Habte are among the album's personnel. Blessed with an open feel and plenty of space for experimentation the groove has a 1970s feel, Mergia adding rhapsodic highly absorbing flourishes as the instrumental decants into declarative vocal and then develops a whole new motific direction as vocals dip in and out of his charismatic solo line.

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Omagh jazz and big band festival preview

''The Omagh Jazz and Big Band Festival,'' writes guitarist Paul Maguire,'' returns for its fifth consecutive year on 7-9 February. The festival started with the aim of providing some live music to brighten a dull time of year with the emphasis on …

Published: 28 Jan 2020. Updated: 2 years.

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''The Omagh Jazz and Big Band Festival,'' writes guitarist Paul Maguire,'' returns for its fifth consecutive year on 7-9 February. The festival started with the aim of providing some live music to brighten a dull time of year with the emphasis on mainstream jazz and blues and the occasional big-band event. It also hoped to provide an outlet for some community initiatives that might not necessarily fall into the jazz category but warrant an outing nevertheless. The organisers also hoped to reach out to an audience that might not have been previously exposed to jazz. In the past along with the more mainstream offerings it has featured jazz poetry, a specially assembled 20-piece big-band, solo jazz pianists, earthy 1920s blues, jazz-dance and even rather off-the-wall science with jazz backing.

''This year, live performances kick off on Friday 7 February with Manu Marechaux and Bob Quick joining forces for Cheese, Wine and Jazz, a perennial favourite, in Omagh Library at 7.30pm, followed by the Ronnie Greer Organ Trio in Next Door at Bogan’s at 10.30pm.

''Ronnie Greer is one of the justifiable legends of the Northern Ireland music scene and one of its favourite performers, having shared the stage with international stars such as Dr. John and Lowell Fulson. A superb blues and jazz guitarist, Ronnie never fails to wring the last drop of emotion. On this occasion he is performing with his organ trio featuring the renowned Scott Flanigan on organ and Peter McKinney on drums. Earlier that evening The Jack Rose at Main Street hosts a Boneyard Records presentation of Funk’n’Soul, Rhythm’n’Blues at 6pm.

''Saturday afternoon is busy! At noon, the Strule Arts Centre Café is once again the venue for one of its frequent jazz events with BBC Radio Ulster’s Linley Hamilton, a trumpet virtuoso who is steeped in the jazz standards. After his big-band appearance last year, Linley is returning to Omagh in a quartet setting to demonstrate just how accomplished he is off the radio as well as on. At 3pm Boneyard Records Shop is host to the Ray Moore trio featuring Shay Turbett and Liam Moore, while that other fine jazz pianist Gerry Bradley makes a solo appearance at the Serendipity Coffee Shop at 4pm. Throughout the afternoon there are events in both Main Street and Omagh Library. Saturday’s events are brought to a close with the ten-piece Palais Swing Band returning to the scene of last year’s triumphant appearance at Omagh Golf Club, starting at 9pm.''

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''On Sunday, Rue hosts a laid back jazz brunch starting at 11.30am with the Gerarda McCann Quintet and the weekend’s final event starts at 2.30pm in McCann’s Bar with the Blue Mamie, her band and guests.''

Paul Maguire is a member of the Omagh Jazz and Big Band Festival organising committee.

Gerarda McCann, above at the microphone, with to her right trombonist Bob Quick and to his right Linley Hamilton. All up-to-the-minute details for this year's festival can be found on the festival Facebook page.

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