Founded five years ago, Limerick JF always comes up with interesting and/or unexpected players or presentations. The opening big-band concert this year saw the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra celebrating aspects of Gerry Mulligan and Stan Kenton, with America's Claire Daly (on her first visit to Ireland, pictured top) playing the baritone parts in Mulligan's distinctive charts for his Concert Jazz Band and at least one originally done for Kenton. More surprisingly, the second half had Norma Winstone lapping up her unaccustomed role as a 1940s/1950s band vocalist on tunes debuted by Kentonites Anita O'Day, June Christy and Chris Connor, while a later set by the LIMK educational project was enlivened by singer Linda Galvin.
Much programming featured different aspects of the guitar, initially via UK band Partisans, fronted by Phil Robson and Julian Siegel (formerly separate visitors to Limerick JF), their multi-faceted and quirky compositions alternately anchored and driven by the no-holds-barred Gene Calderazzo and bassist Thaddeus Kelly. Artist-in-residence for the weekend David O'Rourke, the NYC-based Dublin-born guitarist-arranger, did two notable sets, one with Cork trombonist Paul Dunlea and one with three other Celtic pluckers, namely Hugh Buckley, Tommy Halferty and Joe O'Callaghan (above). What threatened to be just a chops-fest was in fact well organised, reflecting four very different personalities and inevitably becoming a tribute to the late Louis Stewart.
The hit of the festival was undoubtedly Tenerife-based jazz-salsa band Atcheré, who did a workshop, a late-night pub date and an afternoon concert. Led by vibist Jordi Arocha, the eight-piece has a dynamite rhythm-section, strong jazz solos from tenorman Fernando Barrios and pianist Samuel Labrador, and inventive arrangements by trumpeter Manuel Lorenzo. His tight originals and extended versions of standards like 'My Little Suede Shoes' and 'Guarachi Guaro' led to outbreaks of dancing and smiles all round.