It's been possibly the best year yet for jazz in this country. At the core of it has been The Improvised Music Company, Ben Jackson's Note Productions and three other organisations - the Arts Council, whose enlightened support has enabled the IMC to develop so well, and the two companies now so central to jazz sponsorship here, the ESB and Guinness.

The ESB, in particular, has helped the IMC to bring the Dublin Jazz Week to a hugely impressive level, as well as supporting the IMC-organised Routes in Rhythm series and Note Productions' ESB Jazz Series. The Jazz Week has set new standards for presentation and content: this year, we had Elvin Jones, Joe Lovano, Jim McNeely and Claudia Acuna from the US, and, from Europe, Martial Solal, Mike Westbrook, Jarmo Savolainen and emerging young talents such as Eric Vloiemans, Florian Ross and Erik Truffaz.

The IMC also looked after its brief of nurturing local talent. Among other things, there was an excellent new CD from Ronan Guilfoyle's Lingua Franca, as well as a full programme of regular gigs for Irish musicians and the enormously successful Open-jazz 2000 day. But the whole enterprise is now approaching critical mass, in the sense that it needs the stability of a proper venue to call home.

Note Productions also contributed massively to the jazz scene through its ESB series, bringing in such big names as the Mingus Big Band, the Brad Mehldau Trio, Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, McCoy Tyner and singer Kurt Elling's group. Of these, Elling was a revelation, surely the finest jazz singer to appear in a generation.

Elling was also a star at the Guinness Jazz Festival in Cork. This year's event was better than some of its more recent predecessors: besides Elling, it offered some stellar young names in Joshua Redman, Stefon Harris and Regina Carter, and veterans such as Toots Thielemans and Ahmad Jamal.


Much was expected of the jazz at the Belfast Festival, mainly because of the iconoclastic Ornette Coleman, but by all accounts, it turned out to be a rare disappointment in a festival usually noted for its jazz element.

Ray Comiskey