Wake the dead: Cork Guinness Jazz Festival kicks off

40,000 jazz fans to attend as New Orleans-style funeral procession hits town

Loud enough to wake the dead – that might well be the motto for this year's Guinness Cork Jazz Festival which kicked off Thursday night.

The streets of Cork echoed to the strains of jazz ashundreds gathered to watch the carnival-like “Dia De Los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead” parade wind its way through the city centre.

Originating among the Mesoamerican tribes of Mexico as a day for families to gather and pray for their deceased love ones, Dia De Los Muertos has become a regular event in New Orleans, where it is second only to Mardi Gras, and Cork has now become the latest city to tap into the Mexican tradition.

Guinness Cork Jazz Festival director Sinead Dunphy said the Dia De Los Muertos, with its alluring dance of the macabre, was a fitting way to open the jazz festival, which coincides with the start of the Halloween season inspired by the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.


“Dia De Los Muertos is a nod towards Mexico’s ‘Day of the Dead’ parade and here in Cork, we had street performers and floats from Cork City Art Link to ensure it’s like a New Orleans funeral procession with live improvising jazz musicians paying home to the greatest artists of jazz gone from this world.”

Some 40,000 revellers are expected to attend concerts and gigs during the festival which runs over the bank holiday weekend on Leeside until October 30th with 1,000 jazz musicians from over 20 countries performing in more than 70 city venues, she said.

Ms Dunphy said that jazz fans are particularly looking forward to Grammy Award-winning musician and composer, Maria Schneider, and her orchestra, who are making their first ever Irish appearance when they play Cork City Hall on Sunday night.

Nnenna Freelon

The Legendary Blind Boys of Alabama, formed by enrollees at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind in Talladega, are no strangers to Leeside having played the city on several occasions. Their concert at Cork City Hall on Friday looks certain to prove hugely popular with locals and visitors alike.

Meanwhile, celebrated American jazz singer and composer, Nnenna Freelon – who has played and toured with artists such as Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Aretha Franklin, George Benson and Herbie Hancock – will play the Everyman Theatre with her band on Sunday night, she added.

Birmingham-born soul songstress Laura Mvula – who was championed early in her career by Prince – comes to Cork to play City Hall on Saturday night on the back of a new recording contract with Atlantic.

Also appearing this weekend are Chicago's Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, all seven of whom are sons of trumpeter Phil Cohran, and who include among their fans Barack Obama.

"We also have Belfast jazz evangelist Linley Hamilton appearing – he presents Jazz World with Linley Hamilton on BBC Radio Ulster as well as leading his own jazz quartet. He's played with people like Van Morrison, Jacqui Dankworth and Paul Brady, " said Ms Dunphy.

Among the other artists scheduled to play on Leeside this weekend is jazz drummer Billy Cobham, who played with Miles Davis before leaving with guitarist John McLaughlin to form the highly acclaimed Mahavishnu Orchestra. He has also played with rock luminaries, The Grateful Dead.

Others lined up to play Leeside this weekend under the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival logo include Stanley Clarke, Billy Childs Ensemble, Billy Cobham, Fred Hersch, TS Monk, Donny McCaslin, the Frank Vignola's Hot Jazz Trio and Pablo Ziegler Trio as well as Cork's own Brian Deady.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times