Brubeck takes five in Limerick: This week’s best jazz gigs

Darius Brubeck Quartet join a starry international line-up at Limerick Jazz Festival

The Darius Brubeck Quartet – Dave O’Higgins, Matt Ridley, Brubeck, Wesley Gibbens – play the Limerick Jazz Festival on Friday 27th. Photograph: Rob Blackham

The Darius Brubeck Quartet – Dave O’Higgins, Matt Ridley, Brubeck, Wesley Gibbens – play the Limerick Jazz Festival on Friday 27th. Photograph: Rob Blackham


Saturday 21

Black Gate, Galway
Guitarist Aengus Hackett’s ongoing exploration of jazz’s icons arrives this week at the great Wayne Shorter, with a quartet of creative and open-minded musicians including saxophonist Cathal Roche.

Arthurs, Dublin
Talented Cork trombonist Paul Dunlea, a member of Michael Bublé’s touring band, makes a rare visit to the capital this week with his own quartet featuring pianist Cormac MacCarthy, bassist Dan Bodwell and drummer Guy Rickarby.

Sunday 22

Workman’s Club, Dublin
By relocating to Belfast from New York a few years ago, talented US saxophonist Meilana Gillard not only boosted the relatively low saxophonist count in guitar-heavy Irish jazz, but the Ohio-born musician also shed much-needed light on the parlous lack of female instrumentalists on the scene north and south. Gillard is an expansive, big-hearted tenorist in the classic mode, with Sonny Rollins and Joe Henderson in her sound, as well as more contemporary influences, and she has the strength and melodic creativity to venture into the harmonically austere sax, bass and drums format. With the vastly experienced A-team rhythm section of bassist Dave Redmond and drummer Kevin Brady, RBG have already made a splash internationally and here’s a rare chance to hear them on home ground as part of the Dublin Jazz Co-Op series upstairs at the Workman’s Club. 

Sugar Club, Dublin
Swiss director Sophie Huber’s critically acclaimed documentary about the famous Blue Note label gets an Irish premiere this week at the Sugar Club. The legendary New York record label was central to documenting the music of jazz’s classic period in the 1950s and 1960s, and remains a driving force in US jazz. Huber’s film includes contributions from jazz legends like Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock as well as contemporary Blue Note artists like Robert Glasper and Ambrose Akinmusire.

Tuesday 24

International Bar, Dublin
London-born pianist and saxophonist Carole Nelson has been a significant figure on the Irish jazz scene for the last two decades, not least as one half of the trailblazing jazz-pop duo Zrazy, still one of Ireland’s only female-led jazz groups. But Nelson has been concentrating particularly on her piano playing recently, and last year released A Day in Winter, a marvellously delicate collection of her own compositions that swam against the prevailing current of muscle-bound piano trios. As Nelson prepares to record a follow-up, her trio is back on the road with the impeccable rhythm section of bassist Cormac O’Brien and drummer Dominic Mullen.

Wednesday 25

Bimhuis, Amsterdam
Irish jazz listeners with a sense of adventure this week might consider 12 Points, the Irish-born festival of new European jazz which has alternated between Dublin and another European city for the past 13 years. This year, 12 Points (say it in French and you’ll get the joke) takes up residence at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, a venue many regard as the best jazz performance space in the world, with rising bands from across Europe, including boisterous Belfast improv pioneers Robocobra Quartet. Over four days, each band gets strictly equal billing and stage time in this uniquely egalitarian jazz festival, born in Dublin but now hailed across Europe for its innovative programming.

Thursday 26

New Ross Piano Festival, New Ross, Co Wexford
The classically inclined New Ross Piano Festival has widened its embrace in recent years, presenting some of Europe’s finest improvising pianists alongside its classical programme. This year’s jazz offering is the acclaimed Welsh-born pianist Gwilym Simcock, known internationally as current incumbent of the piano chair with legendary guitarist Pat Metheny. The 38-year-old virtuoso’s first solo album, Good Days at Schloss Elmau, was nominated for a Mercury prize, and his recent follow-up, Near and Now, recorded at his home in Berlin, gives further evidence of a pianist for whom the solo setting is particularly fertile ground.  There’s also an afternoon jazz performance from talented Dublin pianist Phil Ware with his hard-swinging trio, featuring bassist Dave Redmond and drummer Kevin Brady.

Friday 27

Dolans, Limerick
Limerick drummer John Daly and his happy band of jazz volunteers get Shannonside swinging this weekend with a starry international line-up that would put many bigger and better-funded festivals to shame. On Friday, pianist Darius Brubeck, son of the legendary Dave Brubeck, leads a quartet that includes fluent UK saxophonist Dave O’Higgins, and London-based US singer-songwriter Sarah Gillespie heads a band packed with UK talent, including pianist Kit Downes and bassist Ruth Goller. Saturday’s programme presents two large ensembles, Septeto Internacional (see below) and the Beats and Pieces Big Band (see below); and Sunday’s double bill sees innovative London guitarist Ant Law lead an Irish line-up that includes in-demand Belfast keyboardist Scott Flanigan, as well as Cork singer Gemma Sugrue’s collaboration with guitarist Julien Colarossi’s quartet. There’s also a jazz trail, workshops for children and, ahead of his performance on Friday night, a public interview with Darius Brubeck by eminent jazz author and Radio Kerry presenter Brian Priestly.

Black Box, Belfast. Also Saturday 28, Limerick Jazz Festival
Even in the heyday of the form, nearly a century ago, keeping a big band together was a herculean task, but in the 21st century, a large jazz ensemble requires unusual levels of passion and commitment from all its members to stay together. The members of Manchester 14-piece Beats and Pieces, led by composer and conductor Ben Cotrell, have been in a committed relationship for the last 11 years and operate more like a small group in terms of their interplay and creativity, but the blast of air from nine well-matched horns is an exhilarating experience that is ever rarer in contemporary jazz.

Arthurs, Dublin. Also Saturday 28, Limerick Jazz Festival
Pianist and composer Michael Fleiner began his musical studies in the late 1980s in Colombia and since then the Swiss-born musician has been leading bands exploring the Latin-American end of the jazz spectrum. His Septeto Internacional is a powerful seven-piece that includes Havana-born trumpeter Juan Munguía, who spent 15 years as lead trumpet with legendary Afro-Cuban pioneers Irakere, as well as stints with Cuban folk legend Silvio Rodríguez and Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Band. These two concerts, supported by the Swiss Embassy in Dublin, offer a rare opportunity to hear high-level Latin jazz on Irish stages.

Courthouse, Tinahely, Co Wicklow. Also Sunday 29, Arthurs, Dublin
Czech-born Dublin-based guitarist Peter Moc’s latest recording, Full Circle – recorded in Dublin last year and released this week – comes with heavyweight credentials courtesy of acclaimed New York guitarist Lage Lund. Born in Norway, Lund has been drawing critical praise in the US since relocating to New York in the early noughties, and the 40-year-old virtuoso has played with some of the leading innovators on the US scene including Seamus Blake, Mark Turner and Maria Schneider’s orchestra. Moc’s quartet also includes bassist Andrew Csibi and drummer Kevin Brady.

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