Adapt and sur­vive

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - GUINNES CORK JAZZ FESTIVAL - Ed Power

EN­DURANCE is ev­ery­thing. Since the jazz fes­ti­val in Cork be­gan in 1978, Ire­land has had 12 taoisigh, two ma­jor re­ces­sions and has seen a flock of other mu­sic events rise and fall. But ev­ery Oc­to­ber long week­end for the past 40 years, the city by the Lee has been swing­ing to the sound of jazz. Half of the city’s population can’t even re­mem­ber a time when there wasn’t a jazz fes­ti­val.

While the jazz has re­mained at the core of the fes­ti­val, in re­cent years, the lineup has broad­ened to fea­ture acts with lit­tle re­la­tion to the genre. Purists raise an eye­brow or two; oth­ers ac­cept that big crowds will help en­sure the fes­ti­val’s sur­vival.

And, fill­ing the spec­trum be­tween hard­core jazz and the con­tem­po­rary pop, are dozens of other acts of var­i­ous hues.

Jack McGouran is artis­tic di­rec­tor of the event and works with the venues, spon­sors Guin­ness and the lo­cal fes­ti­val com­mit­tee on the lineup. “Jazz is a broad church,” says McGouran. “If we make it too con­tem­po­rary we turn the main­stream peo­ple off. Peo­ple who have never liked jazz are nowa­days dis­cov­er­ing its dif­fer­ent strains. They are dis­cov­er­ing it is ex­ten­sive in its reach. We al­ways look at open­ing doors to peo­ple who have maybe not con­sid­ered jazz be­fore.”

The def­i­ni­tion of jazz varies from lis­tener to lis­tener — which is what makes it such an ex­cit­ing, shape-shift­ing genre, he says. “Jazz is like a piece of elas­tic. What is jazz? You could ask 25 mu­si­cians and they would all have a dif­fer­ent idea.”

Head­lin­ers McGouran is look­ing for­ward to wel­com­ing to Cork in­clude the Kenny Gar­rett Quin­tet and Grammy-win­ning vo­cal­ist Dee Dee Bridge­wa­ter. There is also an am­bi­tious Ir­ish pro­gramme, in­clud­ing Dublin up-and-comer Soulé.

“We like to give a plat­form to as many Ir­ish artists as we can,” he says.

This year’s fes­ti­val also comes full cir­cle with a link the late Ron­nie Scott, the late sax­o­phon­ist who head­lined the event’s very first con­cert in 1978.

The es­teemed London jazz club that bears his name is bring­ing its first ever ‘pop-up venue’ to Cork.

It’s quite a coup — but in line with the event’s sta­tus as one of Europe’s lead­ing jazz fests, says McGouran.

“We want to cel­e­brate con­tem­po­rary [i.e. cut­ting edge] jazz but also look back at some of the mid­dle of the road jazz that is very pop­u­lar in Cork,” says McGouran.

“We joined with the Ron­nie Scott’s Jazz Club in London. The first main head­liner was Ron­nie Scott him­self. To­day it’s the top jazz club in Europe. We made con­tact and asked if we could do some­thing to­gether to cel­e­brate. Ron­nie Scott is quite main­stream — it spreads its pro­gram­ming over a wide range, from blues to main­stream jazz to con­tem­po­rary.”

CORK is the per­fect size for a jazz fes­ti­val, says McGouran. “There are a few very cities that can han­dle a jazz fes­ti­val that isn’t just a se­ries of gigs in a ho­tel or a con­cert here and there.

“You come to Cork for the Jazz Fes­ti­val and you know there is a fes­ti­val on. In most cities you couldn’t be aware of that. Peo­ple in Cork talk about ‘the jazz’.

“Any­one who comes to Cork — in my ex­pe­ri­ence, they want to come back. The life of a trav­el­ling jazz mu­si­cian is that you land at the air­port, do the gig and then leave. In Cork it is to­tally dif­fer­ent — you get an ex­pe­ri­ence you have never had be­fore. You are made wel­come. The artists love the up-close-and per­sonal in­ter­ac­tion with the crowd. The fes­ti­val is re­ally renowned around the jazz world. It is one of the top fes­ti­vals.”

Pic­ture: Michael Mac Sweeney

This year’s fes­ti­val in­cludes a spe­cial jazz pa­rade that will be­gin on Grand Pa­rade at 1pm on Satur­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.