Live Reviews: Tudo Bem

Ronan Guilfoyle

Live Reviews: Tudo Bem

Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow, 20 January 2006

Mermaid Arts Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow, 20 January 2006

Ronan Guilfoyle, bass; Tommy Halferty, guitar; Aoife Doyle, vocals; Sean Carpio, drums; Phil Ware, piano

Outside jazz circles, I wonder does the extent to which Ronan Guilfolye is the generator of (or participant in) an apparently endless stream of ensembles and projects receive enough attention. Consider the following recent list of groups: Evidence (playing the music of Thelonious Monk), Khanda (jazz and Irish traditional music), the Guilfoyle-Nielsen Trio, the Lingua Franca project (Irish traditional musicians in contemporary jazz deconstructions), the Guilfoyle/Buckley/Guilfoyle trio (playing, when I last heard them, free-form), Devsirme 05, Microclimate (a cutting-edge group with Joe O’Callaghan and Sean Carpio, who in January also played a cycle of gripping new Guilfolye compositions, each inspired by a single word, for example, ‘traditional’, ‘fixated’, ‘somnambulist’), and, in the context of this review, Tudo Bem (torch-bearers for authentic Brazilian jazz in Ireland). Add to this his educational work in developing the first degree in jazz in Ireland – and thus nurturing many upcoming Irish jazz musicians – and it’s clear that Guilfoyle’s extraordinary work-rate at present is greatly enriching Irish musical life.

Formed two years ago, Tudo Bem (meaning ‘everything’s fine’ or ‘all is well’) brings to Irish audiences the music of Brazil that Guilfoyle has a special affection for. He may say, on stage, that it is simply music that ‘makes him happy’, but the combination of atmospheres the band drew from this music, and the craft of the arrangements, I would imagine left the audience thinking he was understating things slightly.

The band is a mix of greatly experienced artists such as Guilfoyle and Tommy Halferty, and voices such as Aoife Doyle, Phil Ware and Sean Carpio who are adding a new layer to Irish jazz history.

High-energy solos appeared to come endlessly from Tommy Halferty, who was forever seeking the poignant cracks in this colourful music. Twenty-three-year-old Aoife Doyle, as one member of the audience pointed out to me, was the antithesis of the noxious ‘X-Factor’ idea of a singer which envelopes our culture at the moment. She appeared as an equal part of the ensemble, her voice literally as her instrument, moving through a tricky set with great adventure and, at moments, brilliance.

Phrases such as samba and bossa nova are hardly used with accuracy in everyday parlance, but Tudo Bem, driven by Ware, Guilfoyle and Carpio, brought home the beauty of those forms, and introduced us, too, to lesser known Brazilian dance forms. And yet it wasn’t all plain sailing. A broken guitar string for Tommy Halferty just before possibly the most challenging piece of the night unsettled things slightly. But that overcome, and conscious that they had an attentive audience, the band stretched even beyond their strong first half in the last three pieces, ‘Risco’ and ‘Azul Bahia’, written by the Brazilian singer and composer known simply as Joyce, and ‘Dessa Vez Um Samba’ by Magno Bissoli.

This was a night of vibrant Brazilian music, but more than that, it was about great Irish jazz, with the leadership of Guilfoyle the binding element. His next move is always something to be watched out for.

Published on 1 March 2006

Toner Quinn is Editor of the Journal of Music. His new book, What Ireland Can Teach the World About Music, is available here.

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