Jazz guitar, French rhythms, Irish trad: a heavenly mix
Ogham Dalkey Song (HZF)
Tommy Halferty (guitar), Mario Canonge (piano), Michel Zenino (bass), Stephane Foucher (drums)
Tommy Halferty, one of Ireland's finest guitarists, leads three French musicians in a successful marriage of jazz and folk. Irish songs such as My Lagan Love, Raggle Taggle Gypsies and The Bold Fenian Men get a new lease of life, with arrangements by Michel Zenino.
The group, collectively known as Ogham, respects the original tunes while building on them imaginatively -- and Halferty is adventurous in his interpretations. Apart from the traditional tunes, there are two originals with a folky sound: Fire and Rain by James Taylor and Ballade Irlandaise by Eddy Marnay and Emil Stern. The French trio is totally in sympathy with the undertaking, and Halferty's soloing is a joy.
Mark McKnight Organ Quartet Do or Die (Whirlwind Records)
McKnight (guitar), Seamus Blake (tenor sax), Ross Stanley (organ), James Maddren (drums)
Mark McKnight is a phenomenal guitarist whose fluency and dexterity have created a stir in recent years. His first CD, Overnight, with a different quartet, was lyrical, melodic and full of feeling. This new one is more cerebral, and, while there is much to admire, on the whole it appeals to the head more than the heart.
McKnight's virtuosity is not enough to compensate for the general lack of warmth. In the words of at least one veteran jazzman: "Ya gotta feel it!"
• On the live front, Rick Margitza (tenor sax) is the main attraction at the Galway Jazz Festival tonight, backed by Myles Drennan (piano), Dan Bodwell (bass) and Shane O'Donovan (drums). Tomorrow night they play JJ Smyth's. Also tomorrow, Chucho Valdes brings his fiery Cuban beats to the National Concert Hall.