Wednesday 21 March 2018

Dublin City Jazz Orchestra bring big band swing to NCH


Grainne Farren

'THE most important thing is that it's fun. We're playing music that we all love playing."

That is how Dublin City Jazz Orchestra bandleader Ciaran Wilde sums up what would otherwise be the stressful job of leading a big band and keeping it together on a regular basis.

The Dublin City Jazz Orchestra began life as a demonstration band to show students at the Ballymun Wind Project what a big band sounded like. That was four years ago. Since then they have played residencies in the Button Factory, Temple Bar, concerts around the country and a number of festivals. Next Sunday the DCJO will play for the first time at the National Concert Hall.

How does a 17-piece band stay together in this day and age? Ciaran Wilde (alto sax, clarinet) explains that each section is organised independently. If, for example, a regular trumpeter is not free for a particular concert, it is up to him to find a replacement from a panel of musicians.

Ciaran plays down his role of leader. "I'm the guy designated to make the announcements," he explains. "You can't tell a jazz musician what to do, he does the opposite -- especially when there's very little money involved."

Needless to say, all the band members are highly skilled musicians with wide-ranging experience of different types of music. Ciaran himself plays in the RTE Concert Orchestra, as does trumpeter Eamon Nolan. Another trumpeter, Danny Healy, is a member of the Black Magic Big Band in Galway. Others, like Hugh Buckley and Phil Ware, are household names.

Besides playing tunes associated with the great Americans like Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Oliver Nelson, the DCJO now includes in its repertoire compositions by nine Irish composers. These were commissioned by Allen Smith of Jazz on the Terrace, who obtained a grant from the Arts Council for the project. The nine tunes will be recorded on the band's first CD later this year.

Asked whether a big band attracts audiences who are not necessarily jazz fans, Ciaran says he is not sure. "But when we played the Flat Lake Festival we had an audience of new age travellers on ecstasy, and they loved it!" But the NCH audience won't need any ecstasy, other than the sheer joy of listening to this powerfully swinging band.

The line-up for next Sunday is: Ciaran Wilde, Alex Mathias, Derek O'Connor, Nick Roth, Robert Geraghty (saxophones); Jim Clarke, Karl Ronan, Barry McBrien, Paul Frost (trombones); Danny Healy, Ray Martin, Eamon Nolan, Mark Adams (trumpets); Phil Ware (piano), Hugh Buckley (guitar), Cormac O'Brien (double bass) and Shane O'Donovan (drums). Paul Frost and Mark Adams double on vocals.

The concert will also feature three guest singers: Christine Tobin, paying another welcome visit home from London; David Linx from Belgium, heard at last year's Cork Jazz Festival; and the one and only Mary Coughlan.

Sunday Independent

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