Jazz Festival lights up Bray in May

WITH the May weekend fast approaching we thought we should make a bit of a song and dance about the fact today is International Dance Day and tomorrow, International Jazz Day.

Jazz Festival lights up Bray in May

Yes, April 29 has been deemed International Dance Day since 1982 — the date was chosen to celebrate the birth of Jean George Noverre who is widely regarded as the father of modern ballet.

And the good people at UNESCO have declared tomorrow, April 30, as a day when people should, through the means of jazz music, promote freedom of expression and eradicate discrimination and gender inequality. How bad? It’s also a day when perhaps, we should try to steal a few golden moments amid the hustle and bustle that pervades our everyday lives or, to put it another way, try and seek out a bit of craic. This year’s main event celebrating International Jazz Day takes place in Osaka, Japan, and features an all-star cast which includes Herbie Hancock, Courtney Pine and Gregory Porter among others.

However, there’s also plenty craic to be had closer to home. Teenage birthday bashes may not be everybody’s cup of whatever-you’re-havin-yourself but celebrating its 15th birthday this May weekend is the Bray Jazz Festival. It too has a stellar line-up at the Mermaid Arts Centre, including Brooklyn-based Brazilian bossa maestro Vinicius Cantuaria and his quartet (Friday 8pm); Norwegian saxophone colossus Marius Neset and his quartet (Saturday, 8pm); and the dynamic duo of US trumpeter Dave Douglas and pianist Uri Caine on Sunday night at 8pm.

What started as a small and intimate festival in 2000 has grown into a truly international cultural event. Helping the festival’s main driving force George Jacob, in the early days, was a modest grant from the Department of the Taoiseach which helped leverage support from a few other sources that eventually included the Arts Council. This year looks set to build on the success of previous events where big names, including Tomasz Stanko, Andy Sheppard, Andrew Hill, Tord Gustavson and Elaine Elias, have delighted audiences down through the years.

Bray, like most jazz festivals these days, doesn’t confine itself to sticking strictly to jazz and this year features Manden Express (Friday, Town Hall, 6.30pm) which is a collective of international musicians who fuse traditional and modern styles of West African music with flavours ranging in style from flamenco to Santana. Also at the Town Hall on Saturday (6.30pm) is the Irish/Swedish contemporary folk group This Is How We Fly (featuring the Gloaming’s Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh), an outfit getting rave reviews for their debut self-titled album.

As is now the norm at Bray there are also a number of free performances (see www.brayjazz.comfor full programme) such as the Joni Project (Edel Meade’s tribute to Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell) and the wonderful guitarist Hugh Buckley who brings his group to the Royal Hotel on Saturday afternoon.

All in all, with close on 40 concerts including a free jazz trail in the many hostelries and hotels around town there’s also plenty of late night entertainment where the more energetic can trip the light fantastic. In short, it’s worth making a bit of a song and dance about.

* For more see: www.brayjazz.com

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