Complete Guide to Brilliant Corners

Andrew Moore gives a full five-day run-down of events as Belfast's only jazz festival reaches its fifth year

Jazz isn’t dead, it just smells funny.

The multi-talented and artistically gifted Frank Zappa wasn’t wrong. Brilliant Corners, a festival of jazz for Belfast, returns this month for its fifth installation, showcasing the 'amazing, surprising and life changing music' that the genre has to offer.

Curated by Moving on Music, the leading promoters of jazz, folk, roots, traditional and classical music in Northern Ireland, Brilliant Corners represents the city's only jazz festival. Taking place from March 7 to 11, indulge yourself in a vast array of experimental sound: from the punk/jazz fusion hybrid of Robocobra Quartet to the progressive rock-soaked sounds of Belgian trio Dans Dans, the romantic infatuation with jazz is well and truly alive.

Born out of the frustration of witnessing other cities throughout Ireland enjoy their own jazz festivals, Moving on Music’s Michael Bonner describes the concept as 'an attempt to tackle the image problem that jazz has' as it looks to 'push the boundaries', ensuring that Belfast’s extensive sonic artistry doesn’t become safe and restricted.

Away from the wealth of live performances you can kick back at the Bean Bag Cinema and immerse yourself in a selection of historically fascinating films, or be inspired by the young and aspiring musicians that hold the key to unlocking the genre's very soul.

Here’s your complete guide to this year’s edition of Brilliant Corners.

SIRENE 1009 w/ support from Faint+

Blending the sounds of traditional and experimental has always been a talent that Irish improviser, guitarist and constructor Han-earl Park has championed over the years. Here he is joined by the multi-talented bassist and composer Dominic Lash, creatively dreamt up drummer Mark Sanders and folk singer Caroline Pugh, who together make up SIRENE 1009.

Sanders has played alongside many great jazz musicians, such as Wadada Leo Smith and Otomo Yoshihide, and regularly works alongside John Butcher as part of an improvising duo who have dictated sound throughout the world, including Rio Di Janeiro, Amsterdam and Barcelona. Edinburgh bred, Belfast based vocalist Pugh 'borrows old fangled technologies and honours oral histories to create new performances', bringing together a sense of nostalgia with unique experimentation, Pugh has performed throughout Europe and America at the likes of Los Angeles Betaleval and Oslo’s NIME, fusing folk and improvisation to captivating avail.

Supporting SIRENE 1009 is improvisation trio Faint, who will be joined by Lisbon based artist Ricardo Jacinto, evolving the original group title to Faint+. Immerse yourself in a truly unique experience at the Sonic Arts Research Centre on Tuesday, March 7 from 8pm.

Ronan Guilfoyle’s ‘Hands’

Beginning is career with Louis Stewart’s group in the early 1980’s, Ronan Guilfoyle has gone on to become to develop and local and international reputation as an influential figure within the world of jazz. His work includes the award winning Devsirme from 1997, and he boasts an extensive back catalogue from orchestral compositions to instrument solos. Commissions can be seen from the RTE Concert Orchestral in Dublin and the European Jazz Youth Orchestra, in addition to a triumph in the Julius Hemphill Jazz Composition Competition in the USA and a published book titled Creative Rhythmic Concepts for Jazz Composition, which is now viewed as an essential piece of text in its area of expertise.

The founder and head of the jazz department at Dublin’s Newpark Music Centre unites two of New York’s most talented artists in the form of saxophonist Dave Binney and drummer Tom Rainey, who are also joined by the freshly emerging Irish talent of Chris Guilfoyle. Binney has received warm praise from Jazz Times for his involvement in creating an alternative jazz scene where original and imaginative music is given the opportunity to grow and thrive, whilst Rainey boasts a career spanning over 25 years, playing alongside saxophonist and composer Tim Berne and Nels Cline, as well as releasing his own album, titled Pool School, in 2010.

Together they create the project of Hands, an idea that 'combines composed music with freewheeling improvisation'. Catch them at the Black Box on Wednesday, March 8 from 8pm.

I Am Three w/ support from Joseph Leighton Trio

The Berlin based trio of I Am Three pay homage to the great Charles Mingus through flourishes of playfulness and inventiveness. The threesome maintain incredible depth and understanding in their views of the jazz legends work and deconstruct its iconic sound through a combination of sax, trumpet and drums, abandoning the instruments of choice from Mingus himself.

Don’t get it twisted however; this is not simply tribute act. Additional layers have been implemented into an evolution of Mingus’ work. The trio of Silke Eberhard, Nikolaus Neuser and Christian Marian build upon it to create a piece of true sonic architecture.  

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Joining I Am Three is guitarist Joseph Leighton, bassist Conor Murray and drummer James Anderson. Leighton is one of the youngest musicians ever to be awarded a place on the Baniff Centre’s Jazz Course in Canada, and maintains a steady excitement and intrigue in being one of the leading jazz guitarists to emerge from the Irish scene in recent memory.

I Am Three and the Joseph Leighton Trio will be performing at the Black Box on Thursday, March 9 from 8pm.

Dans Dans and Hedvig Mollestad Trio

'Dans Dans unites the talent of three musicians at the absolute top of their game. Jazz without stuffiness, rock without blinkers and avant-garde without pretention.'

The trinity of Bert Dockx (frontman for Flying Horseman), Frederic Jacques (bassist for the acclaimed Mark Lanegan) and Steven Cassiers (beloved artist who has collaborated with Dez Mona amongst others) possess a sound that refuses to be backed into the shadows of genre restriction. Floating between the psychedelic sound-track of blues to ethereal rock and roll, Dans Dans craft their own sonic journey through hypnotising and immersive performance.

Dans Dans 2

Accompanying Dans Dans at the Black Box will be Norwegian three piece Hedvig Mollestad Trio, founded by the Molde Int. Young Jazz Talent of the Year winner Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen in 2009. The trio have since joined forces with renowned record label Rune Grammofon, releasing a string of albums that have each been met with critical acclaim. Thomassen’s stringed artistry has been described as explosive and compelling, combining it with the bass of Ellen Brekken and the drums of Loe Bjornstad to create rhythmically immense performances.

Catch Dans Dans and the Hedvig Mollestad Trio at the Black Box on Friday, March 10 from 9pm.

Organ Failure featuring Jean Toussaint

Nigel Mooney possesses a refreshing DIY attitude when it comes to his work. Teaching himself everything he knows, Mooney is now established as one of the leading figures in Irish jazz, releasing All My Loves In Vain in 2005, one of Ireland’s best selling albums to date. Leading the charge as part of The Gripewater Blues Band in the blues revolution that was present in Ireland during the '80s, Mooney carved out a freshly developed scene through his blending of the Chicago style with a blues sound moulded in his own image.

Jean Toussaint

Assembling with Mooney will be organist Scott Flanigan and drummer Dominic Mullan of Organ Failure, and last but certainly not least the line up is finalised with a feature performance from one of the globes most celebrated saxophone players, Mr. Jean Toussaint.

Catch the experience at the Black Box on Satuday, March 11 at the earlier time of 2:45pm.

Strobes w/ support from Robocobra Quartet

Off beat rhythms and electronic composition fuse together in an alternative rock, minimalistic soundscape. Dan Nicollas (keyboard), Joshua Blackmore (drums) and Matt Calvert (synth and guitar) create an oxymoronic universe of anxiety drenched flourishes and melodically calming atmospheres. Their debut album, Brokespeak, was released in November of last year, and received great praise from the likes of Clash Magazine for its unique and left field interpretation on electronic production and flip sided performance.

Anything is possible during a Strobes dictation.

Supporting the trio is the hardcore punk, classical and jazz hybrid of Robocobra Quartet. The ever-evolving collective appeared at Output Belfast last month, and a queue out the door followed them such was the popularity of their performance.

See Strobes and Robocobra Quartet at the Black Box on Saturday, March 11 from 9pm.

My Name Is Albert Ayler

Trane was the father. Pharoah was the son. I was the holy ghost. – Albert Ayler

Albert Ayler, a leading figure during the free jazz era of the '60s, abandoning the critic’s perception of free jazz in favour of an original interpretation made in his own image. Sharing a title with Ayler’s debut album from 1963, this Kasper Collins directed film explores the blighted life that is so accustomed to that of an artist.

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My Name is Albert Ayler features rare photographs and important moments in the artist’s life, including the death of John Coltrane. Described as 'one of the most starkly beautiful and moving documentaries ever made about a jazz musician' by Jazz Times, this subtly shown documentary is not to be missed.

Watch My Name is Albert Ayler at the Bean Bag Cinema on Thursday, March 9 from 6:15pm.

The Black Power Mixtape

During 1967-1975 a group of Swedish journalists documented the Black Power Movement in the United States. Upheaval and protest  in the face of political oppression, The Black Power Mixtape gives a cultural and political back story from the perspective of those belonging to the African-American community.

Inspiring, captivating and empathetically moving, this Goran Hugo Olsson directed documentary provides an educational and powerful insight into life of the black community during the Martin Luther King Jr. era to the backdrop of a Questlove curated score.

The Black Power Mixtape will be shown at the BeanBag Cinema on Friday, March 10 from 6:45pm.

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in his Own Words

This Thorsten Schutte directed documentary provides an in depth look into the life and work of legendary avant-garde musician Frank Zappa.

Described as unique and eye opening, Eat That Question features archival footage of old interviews and TV appearances of Zappa, not only celebrating the artist’s life but also providing an insightfully new perspective on him.

Protest in the face of censorship and political force, this documentary reinforces the incredible mark that Zappa left on the world, illustrating that while there will always be those who try to snatch freedom of speech from our grasp there will also remain those who stay true and passionate to the positive impact of art and new ideas.

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa is his Own Words will be shown at the Bean Bag Cinema on Saturday, March 11 from 6:15pm.

Young People’s Workshop

Jazz musicians and educators Steve Davis and Shane Latimer provide two relaxed jazz workshops that shine a spotlight on musical creation. In addition to a short set from the two renowned artists, children aged 12-18 will be offered the chance to learn from those vastly educated in the field of jazz, heightening curiosity in the genre and gaining knowledge into new sounds and techniques.

Michael Bonner reinforces the importance of the event. 'Even if it isn’t the type music they’ll eventually pursue, it can open up all kinds of creative corridors within a person,' he says. 'Encouragement, variety, and a bit of investment are vital. Introducing young people to new sounds and techniques, ways of listening and making music at an early age, all feeds into a bigger picture. Who knows what future talent we have here.'

YPW

Session one will take place on Friday, March 10 from 5-7pm and session two will take place the following day from 2-4pm. This will be followed by a performance lasting around 50 minutes at 5pm.

Participation will cost £5 and slots must be booked. To make sure you don’t miss out download a booking form from www.youngatart.co.uk.

For further information on Brilliant Corners visit www.brilliantcornersbelfast.com.