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RAZZMATAZZ! Cork Jazz Festival underway 

It’s the busiest weekend of the year for the Leeside music community, as the Guinness Cork Jazz Weekend turns the city into a worldwide stage for music of all kinds. Mike McGrath-Bryan casts an eye over the weekend.


It’s that time of year again, lads. The buzz is growing, the lists are being made, clashes are being cursed, and venues are bracing themselves for the busiest trading weekend of 2019. Be it straw hats and jazz standards at the Metropole, pop headliners at the Opera House and Cyprus Avenue, the cutting edge of homegrown sounds at The Kino and Fred Zeppelin’s, or serious jazz proceedings at the Triskel and the Everyman, the 42nd annual Guinness Cork Jazz Weekend is the largest musical stage the city has to offer, reaching a worldwide audience via a reputation earned by hosting legends of music, like Ella Fitzgerald, Stéphane Grappelli, and Damon Albarn, among countless others. The city’s music venues, and even bars/spaces that don’t usually make the regular effort, will play host to a wide range of local, national and international artists, performing and DJing across a wide spectrum of genres.

Amid the usual barn-burning among spectators, commentators and hardened musos alike over the headliners of the weekend’s festivities, a world-class lineup that straddles said spectrum has emerged, kicking off on Thursday at 7.30pm with pop heartthrobs Wild Youth headlining at the newly-renovated Cyprus Avenue, for its first Jazz weekend since its expansion. Friday’s first sellout show sees Mica Paris pay tribute to former Festival headliner Fitzgerald at the Everyman Palace, but tickets remain for the likes of Dublin proto-indie institution Aslan (7pm, Cork Opera House) and New Orleans-inflected outfit Booka Brass Band (12pm, Cork Opera House), while jazz hounds will be content with ECM Records documentary screenings at the Triskel Christchurch, and the eclectic selection at the Opera House’s Green Room, throughout the evening and the weekend...

Saturday sees jazz and pop equally well-represented on the billing; Cyprus Avenue plays host to Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (2pm/7pm) and an exclusive Leftfield DJ set (11pm); while 2fm dance jock Jenny Greene keeps the Opera House’s floor full with the help of Generic People on visuals (midnight), a triple-bill of the Jazz’ regular brass bands rocks the Everyman at 2pm, and Grammy-winning vocalist Kurt Elling croons his way through jazz classics at City Hall at 8pm... Sunday sees proceedings come to a head, as the Fred Hersch Trio double up with jazz ambassador Linley Hamilton at the Everyman (7pm), Brian Deady takes his internationally-popular brand of Cork-made soul to the Opera House (7pm) and Motown vocal icon Martha Reeves makes her way through a 60-year songbook of Hitsville USA classics at City Hall at 8pm. Regular festival-goers will be rewarded with a midnight session at the Opera House with Waterford party-simians King Kong Company, fresh from conquering the Irish summer circuit and making inroads into the UK, bringing the ruckus alongside trad-metal groovers The Scratch...

The Jazz Festival Fringe continues the fest’s community outreach efforts throughout the weekend, with talks, presentations and workshops at the City Library, performances of Frank Sinatra’s material and presentations on his legacy at CIT’s Rory Gallagher Theatre; live outdoor performances from the Festival’s visiting brass ensembles on the city’s streets throughout the weekend; and to cap it all off, a non-stop jazz party at Emmet Place from 2pm on Saturday and Sunday, as the Super Dome stage on Emmet Place plays host to visiting and local jazz bands until late in the evening, all for free... The god-fearing among us can visit a real, live, choral gospel service on Sunday morning at 10.45 at St. Anne’s Church on Shandon, while monster food fairs on Emmet Place on weekend mornings will ease even the most diabolical of jazz-related hangovers...

Returning from last year is the Jazz Parade, on Friday night at 7pm, departing from Grand Parade and ending at the Opera House, and bringing some fire to the proceedings as the Super Dome opens for business for the weekend… The Jazz Weekend’s festival club returns to where it all began throughout the weekend, as the Gresham Metropole on McCurtain plays host to a wide variety of jazz, swing and related standards throughout the weekend. In grand festival tradition, afternoon sessions at all venues in the hotel are free, and for many casual revellers throughout the weekend, it’ll be headquarters for jazzin’ proceedings...

Hands-down the real joy of the festival for the city’s community of passionate music heads, however, year in and year out, is the Jazz Weekend’s Music Trail, traversing the city, taking in the venues and original artists that comprise its year-round heart and soul. Among the multitude of Music Trail outings that are unmissable for anyone looking to get a taste of the city’s sonic community: The Paranoid Beast collective’s psychedelia and metal weekender at Fred Zeppelin’s, including Tipp prog-metallers zhOra and Dublin psych-metallers Arjuna’s Eye (Friday and Saturday night), as well as venue appearances from blues power-trio Crow Black Chicken at 4pm and 8pm on Saturday; a quality weekend-long serving of local avant-garde and psychedelia at former Washington Street arthouse cinema-turned-venue The Kino, that includes the likes of electronic producer extraordinaire Bantum, psych-rock-jazz cosmonauts Fixity and supernatural superstar Elaine Howley; and a weekend of intimate, backroom performances at Coughlan’s including appearances from world-travelled songstress Mary Coughlan, future-soul outfit Shookrah, and ‘transatlantic soul’ man Niall McCabe...

The stages are being prepared up and down town, the bands are getting limber for a busy weekend, and gig-goers from all over the world are getting ready to take in the sights and sounds of the city by the Lee, with thousands of music lovers flying in. And as excited as we all are for the biggest few nights on the city's gigging calendar, the anticipation is tangible on the part of the Jazz' headlining artists, also, coming to town with full knowledge of the fest's legendary reputation and eager to leave their mark. In conversation with your writer, Motown vocal icon Martha Reeves has words for the people of Cork City. "I'm excited to be part of the Jazz Weekend. I love coming to Ireland, I love the singing! I love the voices that I hear, and I love the singers that we hear, when we go out to play. I pray that they'll join us, for a celebration."

The 42nd annual Guinness Cork Jazz Weekend happens from this Thursday afternoon to Monday, at venues throughout the city. For more information, door prices and tickets for each headline gig, as well as detailed Fringe and Trail listings, head to guinnessjazzfestival.com.