The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TAKE CRITICS’ CHOICE -

Seán Mac Er­laine

At the end of sum­mer in 1992, my brother came home from work­ing on the east coast of North Amer­ica with a small suit­case of com­pact discs. At that point, our house con­tained a com­bined two dozen CDs, and most of my ed­u­ca­tion came from the pi­rate ra­dio sta­tions. My mu­sic ob­ses­sion had just two sim­ple rules: 1) no opera, 2) no jazz. How­ever, this pale blue suit­case was packed full of jazz CDs, and this al­bum re­ally stuck with me. Within months I had put down my six-string and was plead­ing for a sax­o­phone.

I had never heard an al­bum which com­bined deep groove, beauty of tone, aching lyri­cism and blis­ter­ing en­ergy in such huge doses.

Up to this point, I was ab­sorbed by Dy­lan and other great word­smiths whose mu­sic served to sup­port the lyrics to a song, to carry a voice. But here were mu­si­cians play­ing in­stru­men­tal mu­sic with nu­ance, colour and soul. I shifted to­wards the flow and emo­tional im­me­di­acy of jazz and away from the nar­ra­tive world; to­wards the ab­stract truth.

To­day I marvel at the spa­cious­ness in pro­duc­tion, the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of New York’s ur­ban mu­sic from the 1950s and the sim­plic­ity with which Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Hank Jones, Sam Jones and Art Blakey ap­proached it.

- in con­ver­sa­tion with Niall Byrne

■ Seán Mac Er­laine plays Union Chapel, Lon­don, on May 19th and sup­ports Damo Suzuki at The Grand So­cial, Dublin on May 26th

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