Play it again, Sandy: Storm extends jazz feast

They call it a weekend, but this year, Cork’s annual festival of jazz could be its longest ever.

Musicians from the US are unable to fly home because of Hurricane Sandy, so don’t be surprised if you see some famous faces playing for their keep on the street until it all blows over Stateside.

They might even include drummer Chris Dave and his band, The Drumhedz, who have already had some travel woes. On Sunday they arrived late for their gig at the Everyman Palace as they missed their flight from Paris to Cork and had to be re-routed through Dublin. They still got a standing ovation, though, so keep a lookout for Chris and his turbo-charged drumming.

Whatever about being the longest, the 2012 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival is widely considered to have been the best for years, with shades of pre-recession abandon on the streets and in the pubs.

When Taoiseach Enda Kenny came to Cork last Friday to open the festival — and blow his own trumpet — not even the most die-hard aficionados could predict how the weekend would turn out.

“The sun made a huge difference,” said festival spokeswoman Jean Kearney. “There was a fantastic buzz on the streets right from the start. Everywhere you could see that people were in good form and, apart from the ticketed concerts, there was a fantastic amount of free jazz around, both on the street and in pubs, and it was great to see so many young people enjoying the music and the craic.”

Publican Benny McCabe, owner of six city centre pubs, agrees, blogging that 2012 was the best Cork festival since it all began in 1978.

There was more overseas media interest than ever with press, radio, and TV crews.

Even the taxi drivers were not — for once — complaining, with one cabby remarking: “It’s better than Christmas, boy. Fantastic. I have had a great weekend. The timing was perfect, too, because at this time of year when the nights are closing in we all need a bit of a boost and this gives everyone a lift.”

Traders in the city’s English Market recorded a big boost in business. Likewise, hotels reported a major increase on occupancy this year, with the Gresham Metropole and River Lee Hotel — among others — celebrating higher occupancy rates than in 2011. Coal Quay traders showed a novel way of attracting customers by clubbing together to host their own jazz band, attracting a roaring trade along the way.

The Everyman Palace and Opera House were booked out, while the Cork School of Music offered patrons master classes and free workshops in jazz that attracted hundreds of younger fans.

An unplanned, “secret” gig at the Everyman by Italian jazz singer Roberta Gambarini attracted more than 1,000 people who could hardly credit their good fortune, as she is considered one of the hottest singers anywhere.

Overseas visitors remarked on how compact the city is, making it easy to go from one gig to another, while one jazz critic got himself photographed beneath the Father Mathew statue, pondering how the Apostle of Temperance would fare nowadays.

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