Soak up the sea­side vibes

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TICKET SEVEN DAYS - BRAY JAZZ FES­TI­VAL Cor­mac Larkin

Oh, we do like to be be­side the sea­side, oh, we don’t mind at all be­ing be­side the sea (even in early May), oh we do love a bit of an auld prom­e­nade, and if there’s a brass band play­ing did­dley-om-pom-pom, well, all the bet­ter.

Bray Jazz Fes­ti­val has been fight­ing the good jazz fight for the bet­ter part of two decades now, re­sist­ing the cham­ber-of-com­merce model (heavy on the straw boaters, light on the modern jazz) in favour of con­sis­tently high-qual­ity, ar­tis­ti­cally cred­i­ble line-ups. Over the years, Bray has pre­sented some ma­jor in­ter­na­tional fig­ures (An­drew Hill, Steve Cole­man and To­masz Stanko) as well as catch­ing up-and-com­ing names (Mar­ius Ne­set, Am­brose Ak­in­musire and Kurt Rosen­winkel) and sup­port­ing lo­cal cre­ative mu­sic (Fuzzy Logic, Oko, This Is How We Fly). In­flu­en­tial New York trum­peter Dave Dou­glas liked the Bray vibe so much, he even recorded an al­bum there in 2007 – a ma­jor coup for the fes­ti­val, and a real com­pli­ment to the re­cep­tive Bray au­di­ence.

This year’s fes­ti­val keeps up the good work with a line-up that ticks all of the rel­e­vant boxes: in­ter­na­tional su­per­star – check (Lionel Loueke); 21st-cen­tury gen­der bal­ance – check (Maarja Nuut, Malin Wät­tring, Shan­tala Subra­manyam); high-qual­ity lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion – check (Roamer); cult Aus­tralian pi­ano trio - check (The Necks).

The con­ducive lis­ten­ing en­vi­ron­ment of the Mer­maid Arts Cen­tre hosts the fes­ti­val head­lin­ers. West-African gui­tar ge­nius Lionel Loueke counts Her­bie Han­cock and Barack Obama among his ad­mir­ers, and he’s bound to add to them on Fri­day evening. On Satur­day night, an­ar­chic Manch­ester big band Beats & Pieces make their first Ir­ish ap­pear­ance since their raise-the-roof per­for­mance at the 12 Points fes­ti­val in 2013. And on Sun­day evening, ris­ing Swedish sax­o­phon­ist Malin Wät­tring brings her folky, bit­ter­sweet sound to the Mer­maid.

Else­where on the bill, worth check­ing out on Fri­day will be out­ra­geous Nor­we­gian ac­cor­dion­ist Stian Carstensen and Stravin­sky-in­spired Dan­ish trio The Fire­birds. On Satur­day, beat a path to Car­natic flautist Shan­tala Subra­manyam, Ir­ish jazz su­per­group Roamer, and Pales­tinian vo­cal­ist Ruba Shamshoum. Then on Sun­day, with a lit­tle fancy foot­work, it might just be pos­si­ble to fit in Es­to­nian techno-vi­o­lin­ist Maarja Nuut, and three con­trast­ing pi­ano trios: Dublin’s CEO Ex­per­i­ment with Venezue­lan wun­derkind Leopolod Osio; a new trio with ad­ven­tur­ous Dublin pi­anist Greg Fel­ton, Aus­tralian-Ir­ish bassist Damian Evans and Cata­lan drum­mer Gon­zalo Del Val; and last but not first, Aus­tralian trio the Necks.

Clock­wise from above: Maarja Nuut, Malin Wät­tring, Lionel Loueke and Stian Carstensen

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