Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival

Dublin City Jazz Orchestra, featuring trumpeter Linley Hamilton, get into the swing of things at the Crescent Arts Centre – find out what else is happening over the coming days

There are few sounds in all of popular music more thrilling than a jazz big band in full flight, a point that is resoundingly proven in Belfast’s Crescent Arts Centre by the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra on the opening night of the Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival.

All of the virtues of a great big band are evident as the 17-piece outfit swing, at times like the clappers. The ensemble playing, section playing and soloing are all exemplary.

The band seem to unerringly find the perfect tempo and groove for every number, their repertoire including a gorgeous interpretation of Neal Hefti’s ‘Li’l Darling’, where the collective performance is masterfully controlled.

There follow renditions of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Well You Needn’t’, on which both trumpeter Linley Hamilton and saxophonist Derek O’Connor solo with exhilarating power; Thad Jones’s ‘Don’t Get Sassy’, played with bracing effervescence; and an elegant version of Duke Ellington’s ‘In A Mellow Tone’.

Bass trombonist Paul Frost transforms himself into a blues band leader for a characterful, extroverted version of ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’, and a marvellously exuberant ‘Alright, OK, You Win’, both associated with Joe Williams and the Count Basie Orchestra, and impresses further with a declamatory reading of Ray Charles’s ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’.

Frosts's version of Gus Kahn’s Frank Sinatra-associated ‘The One I Love Belongs To Someone Else’, however, perhaps doesn’t quite convey the pain and vulnerability expressed in the lyrics.

Sure, one might concede that 30 years or so after the irreverent, anarchic Loose Tubes apparently revolutionised the world of big bands, that this is essentially conservative stuff, with most of the material being 60 or more years old and played conventionally. But not every performance has to be cutting edge.

Sometimes it is enough, surely, for music simply to be sublime, and that is certainly the case at this impeccably-performed concert, which clearly delights the capacity Brilliant Corners audience.

The festival, presented by Moving On Music, continues in various Belfast venues until Saturday, March 28, with concerts by Meilana Gillard, Troyka, Get The Blessing, Fred Frith and Steve Davis’ Human other obvious highlights to look out for.

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