Guinness jazz fest 2013Guinness Jazz Festival in venues throughout Cork city, October 25th – 28th 2013

The energy is undeniable walking through the streets of Cork on Friday evening as the venues get going and people are pouring into the city for the 36th Guinness Cork Jazz Festival. On the way to one of the headline venues The Everyman, nearly every pub, venue and hotel seems to be involved in the festival with notes of soul, funk, New Orleans brass, free jazz, experimental, ska and reggae can be heard coming from their open doors and windows. In recent years the festival has given up on trying to stick to the confines of pure jazz music, rather choosing to embrace the huge variety of alternative styles available today.

Hot 8 Brass Band

A steaming Bodega plays host to the New Orleans group, banging out their tunes to a sweaty audience, already well into the festival atmosphere. The groups’ music moves from high energy to sombre funeral brass band style, their chanting vocals calling more in from the streets. Bennie Pete, bandleader and sousaphone player, provides the pulsing bass line for soloists delivering high-octane performances with complex lines to contrast the catchy chorus melodies. The group is kept busy, a couple of members seen later making an appearance at the Irish group Booka Brass Band’s gig and the group again headlining the Bodega on Saturday for those missing out today.

Courtney Pine

Touring on the back of his 2012 album House of Legends, Pine delivers a top quality performance with his trademark combination of fun and musical complexity, with a political twist. The Everyman makes a beautiful setting for Pine, the corniced walls lit in reds and blues. Dancing around the stage playing his Caribbean-inspired music, he makes an odd contrast to the seated crowd observing. Pine’s band features some fantastic performers and creates the setting with a combination including electric guitar and steel pan. Courtney Pine soars above these on his soprano sax and wild-sounding EWI (every woodwind player should own one). Possibly better suited to a dance hall, after downing half a pint of Guinness Pine eventually calls for everyone to stand up and dance in the aisles. No one holds back, and stomping and clapping support the last two numbers as everyone’s pulled into Pine’s world. He so fully enjoys every note and beat and shares this warmly with the crowd; we’ve rarely smiled so much during a sit down performance.

Bad Girls Groove

Over to the Metropole as the night gets later and to the Bar stage for some soul and funk from Bad Girls Groove. Unexpectedly, the band is half and half female/male, but with three front-women on vocals. The group is enjoying getting people moving on the small dance floor with their mix of old and new music, singer Sarah clearly loving the return from the UK to her Cork roots. During a medley of Motown classics, the bass player shows they know how to step up the funk while the girls bust some moves at the front. This lead to copycat antics on the floor before a cover of Beyonce’s Work It Out that rivals the original thanks to a soulful twist in the vocals that seems to have been missing until just that moment.

Son Yambu

Walking past the Ballroom upstairs, the sound of cheering into a room full of wannabe salsa dance superstars is irresistible. The Cuban band’s leader Yuriselys Moreno Soria has everyone in stitches trying out some hip-thrusting moves while the band behind her is chilled out, providing a rhythmically charged groove for everyone to party to. Mentiroso gives Soria a chance to really show off her vocal power, the growling tone contrasting with the good-times vibe in the band. Well outside of their scheduled performance time, the group is clearly here to enjoy themselves ‘til their feet give way, and everyone else in the hall seems up for sticking with them to the end.

As things wind up in the Metropole, we venture back out into the streets. Venues still open are by now packed to the gills and music making has poured into the streets with buskers and drunken sing-alongs clamouring for attention. A promising start to the weekend, we can’t wait to see what’s in store tomorrow.