The 71-year-old saxophonist nonchalantly sipped a cup of tea on stage while waiting to perform with his band in the Shelbourne bar on MacCurtain St. They were playing six gigs over the weekend, but Connolly was taking it all in his relaxed stride.
“At least I’m famous in my own backyard,” he said. “It’s great fun every year. I still love it.”
Organisers estimated an attendance of more than 40,000 at events over the weekend.
Many venue owners were confirming a bumper year for the festival: Lots of the ticketed events sold out, and by Sunday night, long queues were still forming for venues on the Music Trail.
Rose-Anne Kidney, events organiser for the festival’s fringe events and food market, said that although it was hard to be precise, the overall feeling was that numbers were up across the board.
“The weather was really good, so that’s a factor,” said Kidney, “but I think there’s a lot more interest and investment in the festival now, and it shows.”
Kidney said the emphasis on free and outdoor events was a huge boost to the festive atmosphere. This year’s food market saw 21 stalls serve up a broad menu of world cuisine
Among the sell-out headline acts at the Opera House were the Booka Brass Band, Waterford electronic act King Kong Company, and Imelda May, who later received the festival’s Crossover Music Award.
May, who made waves recently when she shed her famous rockabilly style in favour of a more sophisticated and bluesy feel, was a big hit with her mixed-age crowd on Sunday. The singer dedicated one song to staff at her record company who died in 2015 at the Bataclan Theatre attacks in Paris, revealing she had been in Paris visiting U2 when the attack took place.
Meanwhile, fans of more experimental or avant-garde fare were in Triskel Christchurch for Dublin Jazz singer Sue Rynhart, who at times stretches the definition of jazz beyond breaking point, with nods to medieval, choral and folk music.
Ronnie Scott’s Allstars, a dream-team of some of the best musicians who play at the London club, played an afternoon set of jazz standards at the Everyman with their Soho Songbook, a tribute to the many musical legends who have played at the famous Soho jazz club, many of whom also played at the Cork Jazz Festival down through the years.
Festival founder Jim Mountjoy, who worked for the Metropole Hotel and arranged the first ever Cork Jazz Festival in 1978 to fill in the gap left by a cancelled bridge tournament, said the 40-year anniversary of the festival is a proud time for him, not least because of the economic benefits the annual event brings to the city.
“It’s brought in more than €250m to the Cork economy in its 40 years,” said Mountjoy, as the festival wound down with a selection of family- friendly afternoon events yesterday.
“So yes, I am proud of that. People don’t see all the knock-on benefits — even hair salons and retail outlets do better.”
What does Mountjoy predict for the next 40 years of Guinness Cork Jazz?
“It will certainly go from strength to strength. I used to promote the festival all over Britain, the US, and Europe, and I’d like to see that done again.
“But I’m also a great believer in letting new blood in, and the current festival team are doing an absolutely fantastic job.”