Firkin Crane, Cork, 30 Oct 2005
Rick Peckham, musical director; Aoife Doyle, voice; Simone Mendonca, violin; Matt Berrill, alto sax, clarinet; Bill Blackmore, trumpet; Colm O’Hara, trombone; Julie Cruickshank, piano; Stephen McFarlane, guitar; Andrew Csibi, bass; Phil McMullan, drums.
INTRO 05 is the Improvised Music Company’s inaugural development tour that aims to showcase nationally the wealth of emerging talent in the Irish jazz scene today. Fronting a ten-piece band which includes vocals, violin, and trombone as well as alto sax, trumpet, guitar, piano, bass and drums, musical director Rick Peckham, senior faculty member at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, put the band through their paces on well-known jazz numbers, lesser known gems and works commissioned especially for this tour. The modern and quite diverse programme, and the extensive variety of musical interests that the band members possess, spanning from Latin-American, gospel, funk, reggae and classical, begged the question: was it to be a case of too many cooks spoil the musical broth?
Any such fears were quickly laid to rest as a wonderful performance of the Wayne Shorter tune ‘Go’ set the tone for the evening. All members acquitted themselves admirably in a piece in which the open horn arrangement has the potential to expose any tuning difficulties. A reduced band rendition of Carlos Jobim’s ‘Zingaro’ was a particular highlight. Inexplicably largely ignored by the jazz community, this is one of the finest tunes in the Jobim catalogue. A very chromatic melody lies at the heart of the charm of ‘Zingaro’ and Aoife Doyle’s vocal rendition was carried off with sensitivity while displaying a great understanding of the subtlety of latin music. Drummer Phil McMullan featured on ‘Happy House’, a lesser-known tune by Ornette Coleman. Formidable technique is a prerequisite for hitting Coleman’s convoluted rhythmic cues and McMullan carried this off with an infectious energy that permeated throughout the band.
Of course, the purpose of this concert was twofold: to hear some of Ireland’s new jazz generation and to introduce new compositions and arrangements from leading Irish jazz composers. Interestingly, all of these commissions, in some fashion, juxtaposed sections of the band, styles of jazz, or rhythmic structures. Dylan Rynhart’s challenging ‘The Difference Between Light & Hard’ led the way with contrasting instrumental sections followed by Ronan Guilfoyle’s ‘Sustenuto’ and ‘Jigsaw’ which demonstrated the composer’s penchant for odd metre and succeeded in making a 5/4 time signature seem most natural and logical. Daniel Jacobsen’s ‘Fractal’ was an intriguing mixture of rhythmic structures based upon geometric patterns while Jonathon O’Donovan’s ‘Integration’ and ‘Cascades’, which jumped between samba and a groove feel, ensured that all members of the band were pushed to their musical limits.
If there is one criticism, and it is a minor one, it is that as a result of the large number in the ensemble I felt that many of the musicians were not given ample time to develop their improvisations. In this case two or three lengthier solos would have been more preferential to six or seven shorter ones. Nonetheless, this concert displayed these musicians and composers as being not only individually competent in their respective fields, but more importantly, having the understanding and discipline needed for working in the particular context of a band.
Published on 1 January 2006