Kinch and Carroll cap Sligo capers

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soweto-sligo

The combined festival and summer school in Sligo have had the town buzzing since 2005. The Hawks Well Theatre hosts larger concerts while venues around town cater for smaller gigs. In addition to performances, 21 tutors hold daily masterclasses and lead ensembles for 120 participants at the Institute of Technology.

Soweto Kinch's Friday talk was cogent, contextualising the influences of politics, race and religion on the great river that is jazz. His concert on Saturday mixed spoken word, intense, plaintive and authoritative alto sax, and sampled sound, making compelling music with bass master John Goldsby (who daily played everything from fusion to mainstream, with his calm consummate ease). Drummer David Lyttle steered a course of deft inventiveness laying down the groove. Kinch playfully included the audience in chanting some of his hip hop tunes, but his music transcended any need for genre pigeonholing. Saturday's first half, a tribute to recently-deceased guitarist Allan Holdsworth, saw Australian drummer Virgil Donati lead a fusion offering of assured technical complexity, with Anton Davidyants (bass) Steve Hamilton (piano) and Mike Nielsen (microtonal guitar).

The week opened with a stellar frontline of singers, Liane Carroll, Emilia Mårtensson and Sara Colman, joined by the earthy tenor sax of Meilana Gillard and ethereal trombone of Shannon Barnett (pictured above). Such was the emotional power of these musicians that their performance brought tears to many an eye, while Dublin-born, New York-based Christine Tobin revisited her Sailing to Byzantium set, an enthralling response to W.B. Yeats' poetry, accompanied by a quintet of piano, cello, bass, guitar and flute.

A new festival initiative, pianist Kieran Quinn's Theme Night, gathered a top-line big band backing local solo singers, all of whom acquitted themselves admirably. Here was a typical example of the warmth and inclusivity of the festival, on which the visiting musicians commented at every opportunity. Other standout performances, for instance by Paul Clarvis, Malcolm Edmonstone, Matt Halpin, Mike Walker, Stephen Davis and Cathal Roche, led to high expectations of next year's festival.

– John Philip Murray
– Photos by Lieve Boussauw