Praising the heavens as music lovers get involved


SO MUCH for the stereotypical image of jazz musicians selling their souls to the devil.

On Saturday night of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, something of a spiritual awakening was almost spurred by the Harlem Gospel Choir in the Cork Opera House. Playing to a sold-out auditorium, the band had the crowd on their feet praising the Lord and offering it up within minutes of taking to the stage.

“I don’t know if it was about God,” said Mary Hickson, chief executive of Cork Opera House, “I think it was more about the music. When they were doing the ‘Lord is our redeemer’ stuff, many people went out to get a drink.”

The Cork Opera House was participating in the jazz festival after several years of a hiatus sparked by a disagreement over alcohol sponsorship which saw Murphy’s and Guinness in a stand-off (Murphy’s has the pouring rights at the opera house and the jazz festival is sponsored by Guinness).

A compromise was found this year, and along with the Harlem Gospel Choir, Tim Minchin and Karen Underwood both played to sold-out shows at the venue.

Elsewhere in the city, organisers reported that audience figures were in line with previous years, although ticket prices for most headlines were down between 10 and 15 per cent.

Perhaps the most eye-catching line-up was the first outing of Damon Albarn’s new collective Honest Jon’s Chop-Up, now renamed Rocketjuice and the Moon, which featured Red Hot Chilli Peppers bassist Flea as well as DJ Theo Parish and Tony Allen.

Some fans felt disgruntled by the lack of an encore, and arguably it had about as much in affinity with the genre of jazz as Daniel O’Donnell does. Festival programme director Jack McGouran explained that jazz festivals all over Europe have diversified in recent years to maintain relevancy and Cork is no exception.

“We have to keep it fresh and contemporary and encourage new audiences. We have made it eclectic rather than specifically jazz so we brought in world music and European music. We’ve moved away from the blue note era into new strands and styles of jazz.”

There was plenty free music and events on the streets also, with Oh No Jazz Band, from the Netherlands, entertaining crowds on Patrick Street and Goldiefish Promotions organising a food market and artisan craft fair on Saturday and Sunday.

Even the protesters at the Occupy Cork camp got involved, albeit in their own way. True to rebellious form, the group put on a folk band on Friday night and billed it as a “trad versus jazz” event.

Or, as one of the group members put it: “We offered an Irish solution to an international phenomenon.”

Festival Stars

Jazz Legend award:Jean-Luc Ponty

Personality of the Festival:Pee Wee Ellis

Rising Star award:Tia Fuller

Jazz in Europe award: Ian Shaw Best Young Irish Band: ReDiviDer

Band of the Festival:Hypnotic Brass Ensemble