The eight best jazz gigs to go to around Ireland this week
Honor Heffernan, Greg Osby, Mary Coughlan and Ned Rothenberg all play Dublin dates
Vocalist Honor Heffernan plays Arthur’s, Dublin on Saturday, November 16th
Saturday, November 16th
Arthur’s, Thomas Street, Dublin, arthurspub.ie (also Asgard Theatre, Arklow, Saturday 23rd, arklowtheatre.com)
Though fully deserving of her reputation as Ireland’s pre-eminent jazz singer, Dublin vocalist and actor Honor Heffernan has spent recent years exploring the theatrical side of her talent, winning international acclaim for Whistling Girl, her show based on the writings of Dorothy Parker and guesting with pianist Trevor Knight’s wild west-inspired Devil’s Spine Band.
Fans of Heffernan’s jazz singing will be delighted therefore to see her return to her roots with a powerful quartet featuring pianist Phil Ware, bassist Damien Evans and drummer Kevin Brady.
The singer also performs Whistling Girl in Arklow on Saturday 23rd.
JazzGate: The Music of Joni Mitchell featuring Suzanne Savage
Black Gate, Francis Street, Galway, aengushackett.com/jazzgate
Illness, not to mention a deep distrust of the music industry, may have forced her to withdraw from public performance in recent years, but Joni Mitchell’s stature as a songwriter, musician, and an innovator, continues to grow. Her particular prestige among jazz musicians is due not only to her fruitful collaborations with giants of the music such as Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastorius and Herbie Hancock, but above all to the extraordinary originality and musical complexity of her tunes, which crop up increasingly in the jazz repertoire. Talented Belfast vocalist Suzanne Savage, herself a songwriter of growing assurance, headlines this latest in Galway guitarist Aengus Hackett’s ongoing JazzGate series at the Black Gate, celebrating some of the icons of jazz.
Sunday, November 17th
Greg Osby & Tal Cohen Quartet
Arthur’s, Thomas Street, Dublin, arthurspub.ie
Saxophonist and producer Greg Osby has been one of the most influential and innovative voices on the US scene for the last 30 years. With fellow saxophonist Steve Coleman, the St Louis-born musician was one of the founders of M-Base, the loose New York collective of musicians, dancers, and writers that emerged in the early 1990s, and which would profoundly influence the development of creative music in the ensuing decades. Osby is an acknowledged mentor and supporter of young musicians’ careers – he was the first to promote the playing of pianist Jason Moran. Osby’s personal reputation has been dented in the last couple of years by allegations of sexual harassment while he was a professor at Berklee College of Music – allegations which the saxophonist denies – but there is no denying that on a musical level, his appearance at Arthur’s represents a unique opportunity to witness one of the major innovators of contemporary US jazz up close. He is joined by rising New York-based Israeli pianist Tal Cohen, along with the seasoned Irish rhythm section of bassist Barry Donohue and drummer Shane O’Donovan.
Monday, November 18th
Zandra, Queen of Jazz
Smock Alley, Dublin (until Saturday 23rd), darnskippy.com
Josephine Alexandra Mitchell – known as Zandra to her fans – was Ireland’s first jazz musician of international repute. Born in Dublin in 1903, she made her first public performance at the age of 11, and by her early 20s, she was touring Europe, eventually settling in Berlin where she led her own band, Baby Mitchell and her Original Queens of Jazz, to great acclaim during the 1930s. When she died in obscurity in Donegal 50 years later, all but forgotten by Irish jazz fans, her few personal effects included a mouthpiece given to her by the great Coleman Hawkins.
Zandra, Queen of Jazz, described as “a play with original music”, is a new work from Darn Skippy theatre company celebrating Ireland’s first international jazz star, written and performed by Roseanne Lynch, with music by Richard Lennon. The play runs at Smock Alley from November 18th-23rd and at the DLR Lexicon on December 6th and 7th.
Wednesday, November 20th
Mary Coughlan sings Billie Holiday
Arthur’s, Thomas Street, Dublin, arthurspub.ie
There can be few singers better suited to conjuring the spirit of Billie Holiday than the great Mary Coughlan. Like Holiday, Coughlan’s art has been forged in the crucible of personal tragedy and the Galway vocalist shares Holiday’s ability to invest a standard song with authentic emotion. This is her second Billie Holiday show this month, and tickets flew out the door long ago, so when Coughlan takes the Arthur’s stage – with a first-rate band including pianist Johnny Taylor, bassist Cormac O’Brien and drummer Dominic Mullen – she will be greeted by an audience that knows exactly how special this tribute to one of the founding mothers of the art of jazz singing is likely to be.
Thursday, November 21st
Ned Rothenberg & Paul G Smyth
Studio, National Concert Hall, Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin, nch.ie
US multi-reeds player Ned Rothenberg has been part of the left-of-centre New York downtown scene since the late 1970s, developing a highly individual sound that blends contemporary classical and free-jazz elements, influenced by musicians such as Sam Rivers and Henry Threadgill, and by “world” music, particularly the tradition of Japanese Shakuhachi, the bamboo flute which is a major instrument in Zen music. In a career now spanning five decades, Rothenberg has performed with some of the titans of free music including Anthony Braxton, John Zorn and Evan Parker. He’s in town for a duo performance with pianist Paul G Smyth of Dublin experimentalists the Jimmy Cake, and he also gives an early evening workshop entitled The Challenge Of World Music For The Creative Musician on Friday, November 22nd.
Darren Beckett Quartet featuring Stéphane Mercier
Billy Byrne’s, Kilkenny, facebook.com/sofasessionskilkenny (also Arthur’s, Thomas Street, Dublin, Saturday 23rd, arthurspub.ie)
Belfast drummer Darren Beckett spent much of his early career in New York, where he played with Madeleine Peyroux and Lee Konitz, co-founded indy band Ambulance Ltd, and collaborated with Lauryn Hill and Killers frontman Brandon Flowers, but since he relocated to Brighton three years ago, performances by the hugely talented and versatile drummer on home turf have been more frequent. Beckett’s back in Ireland this week leading a strong quartet featuring his old friend, Belgian saxophonist and jazz historian Stéphane Mercier, along with two leading players on the Dublin scene, guitarist Hugh Buckley and bassist Dave Redmond.
Friday, November 22nd
Sugar Club, Leeson Street, Dublin, thesugarclub.com
London four-piece Portico Quartet made a big noise a decade ago when their debut album, Knee Deep in the North Sea, was nominated for the 2008 Mercury Prize. They almost single-handedly introduced the new-fangled “hang” drum (a percussion instrument related to the steel drum) and brought the concentrated vibe of minimalism and ambient jazz to an audience far beyond the jazz ghetto. Since the recent departure of the band’s principle hang player Nick Mulvey, they have refocused their sound, with more electronics and samples, but their latest release, Memory Streams, just out on Gondwana Records, suggests there is more to come from Portico Quartet.