This double bill of quartets the perfect number
THE Cork Jazz Festival's tradition of double bills can sometimes lead to very dissimilar groups sharing a concert, so that those who like one half will not necessarily enjoy the other.
However, on the afternoon of last Saturday week, the organisers got it right: the Charles McPherson and Charlie Haden Quartets were both aimed at the same audience. Indeed, I know two people who took the morning train from Dublin just for that one concert. They were well rewarded.
McPherson (alto sax), a veteran of the Charles Mingus band among others, had not been heard live in Ireland since the heyday of the Dublin Jazz Society, when he graced such humble venues as Whelan's and Mother Redcap's. In Cork he was backed by Barry Green (piano), Jeremy Brown (double bass) and Stephen Keogh (drums). His own compositions, Marionette, Lonely Little Chimes and A Tear and a Smile, showed his mastery of dynamics and subtle nuances. A humorous quote from The Kerry Dances, reminiscent of Dizzy Gillespie, turned into a Parkeresque blues. He banished the October chill with an uptempo Spring is Here and appealed to closet romantics with Dancing in the Dark.
The Charlie Haden Quartet West has the seamless togetherness that comes from playing as a unit for 25 years. Ernie Watts's full-blooded tenor, Alan Broadbent's eloquence at the piano, Rodney Green's buoyant drumming and the leader's superb bass-playing held everyone spellbound.
Highlights included the lilting calypso Child's Play, Ornette Coleman's Lonely Woman and the Bing Crosby chestnut What'll I Do? Haden himself won the Guinness Jazz Personality award.
The Three Voices of Jazz -- Norma Winstone, David Linx and Maria Pia De Vito -- sang in the Triskel at the River Lee, backed by Huw Warren (piano). Solos, duets and trios succeeded one another, ranging from straight songs like The Peacocks to the dazzling vocal gymnastics of Prelude. Their spectacular performance ended Sunday night on a dizzy high.