Steely Dan tributes and basses high at Sligo Jazz Project


In a week of outstanding musical offerings in Sligo, perhaps the apogee was Malcolm Edmonstone's arrangement of Donald Fagan's solo album The Nightfly, with a cracking big band rocking the audience. 'I.G.Y. (What a Beautiful World)' was a fitting anthem for the concert.
Opening the festival, vocalists Liane Carroll, Sara Colman, Emilia Mårtensson, trombonist Shannon Barnett, saxophonist Meilana Gillard joined Edmonstone (piano), John Goldsby (bass) and David Lyttle (drums), pumping fresh life into standards such as 'Honeysuckle Rose', the folk tune 'Never Will I Marry', an original in 9/8 time and Sara and Malcolm's moving version of James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain'.

On a subsequent night, electric bassists Federico Malaman and Henrik Linder, with Nicolas Viccaro (drums) and Scott Flanigan (piano), displayed outrageous technical proficiency and brilliant musicality, including funky versions of 'Little Sunflower', 'Giant Steps' and a tune whimsically referred to as a ballad...that was anything but!

After the electrifying first half, came a band described on their Facebook page as "neo-acoustic Celtic post-rock". Very capable musicians, the Olllam left me unmoved. Putting a snare/bass drumbeat against traditional Irish instrumentation has been done to much better effect elsewhere. The audience loved it, though.

The surprise concert of the week was Goldenhair, renowned Irish film composer Brian Byrne's response to a short book of poetry by James Joyce. Great, almost operatic arrangements laid the ground for wonderful piano work by the composer, with powerful vocals by William Byrne, Lucia Evans and the ever-wonderful Carroll. The band were terrific on 'Go Seek Her Out' and a barnstorming 'Why Have You Left Me Alone', based on a W.B. Yeats masterpiece. A funky 12/8 rendition of 'The Kiss She Gave to Me' closed another night of great music making.

The final concert by a faculty of towering international musicians meant that the title 'SJP All Stars', is a description without hubris. Ranging from duos to big band, the concert closed by reprising 'I.G.Y.' as our earworm for the following days.

– John Philip Murray