Monday's Improvised Music Company's concert featured the newest unit on the currently burgeoning Irish jazz scene, a hard bop quintet lead by Mark Bradley and Karl Ronan, supported by an excellent rhythm section in Justin Carroll, Michael Coady and Conor Guilfoyle.
Hard bop is too confining a label for what they do, however, because their rhythmic and harmonic flexibility is considerably greater than the 1950s idiom to which it refers. And though the band sounded a little rough early on - the venerable Groovin' High was a difficult enough opener - such is the talent in this quintet that, given sufficient opportunity to play together, it can only get better.
Thelonious Monk's take on the blues, Misterioso, got a haunting exposition from the trumpet/trombone front line, a neatly developed trumpet solo, reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard, from the gifted Bradley, and nicely organised eights with the drums, after trombone and piano had had their say. On Masquerade, with the theme beautifully shared between flugelhorn and trombone, the group moved into groove; Bradley was superb on flugelhorn, Ronan produced his best work so far, their performances aptly underlined by the interplay between piano and drums.
But it was after the interval, when more modern material was used, that the music was at its most exciting. Best of all was the band's response to Canadian trombonist Hugh Fraser's Hyperbontonea, a modal piece which moved in and out time; the opportunity to use the freedom of line and rhythm it provided was inventively used and Ronan, in particular, sounded more comfortable on this than on some of the older material. It was contrasted with a gorgeous, minor-hued ballad, Fairy Tales, also by Fraser, with both Bradley and Ronan offering some of their most melodic soloing. Of the rest, Airegin and Code Blue were effective pieces, crisply played, while Freedom Jazz Dance got an exuberantly rocking outing with good solos all round, capped by one of Carroll's best.