DAVID O'ROURKE & LEWIS NASH'S:
Celtic Jazz Collective
Afro-Celtic music? Jazz reels and calypso hornpipes? Congas and concertinas? You must be kidding! I only did it cause some great musicians really wanted to give it a try: four of Irelands finest, led by the legend of Irish pipers, Paddy Keenan; and a smoking jazz rhythm section, led by superstar drummer Lewis Nash. Wow, were they right! They created a historic first and they made fun music: their infectious Afro-Caribbean-Celtic grooves will have you popping your fingers and step-dancing, whether youre a jazzer or a Gael. The crystal clarity and explosive dynamics of the Mapleshade sound doesnt hurt either; both Paddy and Lewis said theyd never heard their pipes and drums sound so real. (#08032)
IF YOU ENJOYED CELTIC JAZZ COLLECTIVE, BE SURE TO CHECK OUT:
After a gig they played together at the 1998 Cork Jazz Festival, drummer Lewis Nash whose credits include playing with Oscar Peterson, Betty Carter, and Ray Brown quizzed Dublin-born guitarist David ORourke about the music of Turlough OCarolan. Nash had bought a CD of the blind 16th-century Irish harpist/composers works earlier that week, and was intrigued by the melodies.
ORourke had always harbored a desire to meld the swing and rhythmic sophistication of jazz with the melodies he had learned as a youth. ORourke turned Nash on to OCarolan and other Irish music, and the two set out on a path to combine these two improvisational traditions.
The result is Aislinn (A Vison). ORourke and Nash have assembled a band comprised of great musicians from the jazz and Irish music worlds. And they work through a set of fifteen songs with energy and panache. The album was recorded in live takes on vintage analog equipment, giving the music a warm, glowy feel.
Standouts include the gently grooving Belfast Hornpipe, The Kid on the Mountain, which evokes Miles Davis arrangements on Kind of Blue, and the beautiful Beannaigh Sinn A Athair/An Pheader, two Sean ORiada melodies that showcase ORourkes deft guitar skills. And pay special attention to Nashs stick work on both takes of The Maid Behind the Bar/The Woman of the House, on which he answers the ex-Bothy Band uilleann piper Paddy Keenans phrasing with incredibly nuanced drum conversations of his own.
The Celtic Jazz Collective is stylish, sophisticated, and most importantly, swinging. This album is a must-have for jazz buffs who wish to explore music, for Irish music aficionados looking for a toe-hold onto jazz ah, flip it: its a must-have, period.
This is a very strange record a fusion of modal jazz and Celtic reels that, against all odds, works. No busmans holiday amateurism here: These are top-notch jazz musicians, top-notch Irish musicians, who get together, do their own thing, and somehow it melds splendidly. My guess is that Irish fans may like it more than jazz fans, but its a kick to hear Washingtons bass walks and Nashs swing licks moving so jauntily behind a drone on The Old Bush and a hair-raiser to hear Paddy Keenan delving into a Coltrane-like solo on The Belfast Hornpipe.
Pierre Spreys minimally miked, live-to-two-channel, analog recording is typically wondrous. Some tracks were laid down in his studio, others live at the Jazz Standard in New York. All are excellent.
All Music Guide:
Given the popularity of Celtic Music throughout the country, it was only a matter of time before an album dressing the Irish music in jazz garments would come along. Luckily for all, this task was an undertaking by sound musicians from both the jazz and Celtic sides. Guitarist David O'Rourke straddles the Irish and jazz fence. Paddy Keenan bagpipes fits right in as he cleverly merges rhythms special to that instrument with those on the jazz side. On the medley "The Salamanca"/"The Banshee" his foil is Fintan O'Neill and on "The Maid Behind the Bar"/"The Woman of the House" the drums of Lewis Nash. The lilting of the Irish reel is successfully stirred in with the lilting of Caribbean jazz on still another medley "The old Bush"/"Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrel"/"Master Crowley". Some of the performances of Irish Jig and reels are done as straight jazz with a tad of intervention by the Irish instruments such as on "Drowsie Mariah" where O'Rourke is allowed to display his guitar qualities, and they are significant indeed. But there's a legitimate mixture of the two forms on "The Belfast Hornpipe" as Keenans pipes underscore the piano and the swinging O'Rourke guitar with island percussion from Steve Kroon. All of the participants in this marriage of musical forms make important contributions to the success of this album. But it's the bagpipes of Keenan and the drums of Nash that keep things together for their respective sides of the musical equation and for the group as a whole.
This album was a challenge for the players to make the merger of two different styles come across naturally and unforced. It also has excellent sound as is the norm for any album engineered by that audio whiz, Pierre Sprey. Recommended.
Jazz and Celtic have had meetings in the past, such as the classic Moving Hearts work out of Ireland or the Easy Clubs swing stylings from Scotland. However, this release is especially upfront in bringing together the two genres for a conversation. The Celtic Jazz Collective is a jazz quartet from New York along with several exceptional Irish players, fine musicians all. These include jazz musicians Lewis Nash (drums) and David ORourke (guitar), who were the driving force for the combination, along with traditional musicians such as Paddy Keenan (uilleann pipes), Niall Vallely (concertina), and Fiona Doherty (fiddle). The combination works most of the time, as the tempos meld gloriously and the instruments bounce off of each other like old friends.
The release opens with a peripatetic concertina, accompanied on its travels by a piano-led jazz combo that sounds like it just stepped off the plane from Cuba. Other highlights include the bass walking up and down the accordion on The Munster Hornpipe, the jazz chording that gives The Kid on the Mountain new life, and a tune where Miles Davis meets Drowsy Maggie. All but two of the 15 tracks are based on well-traveled Irish tunes, such as The Maid Behind the Bar, Planxty Charles OConnor, The Belfast Hornpipe, and Pigeon on the Gate. The exceptions are a nocturne from John Field and a couple of tunes from Sean ORiada.
June/July 02 #100