It’s the one weekend where Cork genuinely seems to be the place to be for other visitors, who descend here in their masses. Everyone gets behind the festival, and nearly all bars, restaurants, venues and other local business outlets have been hyping it up for weeks or even months at this stage.
Sadly it still hasn’t been matched when it comes to the volume of people visiting or going out, but there have been many other valiant attempts to get weekenders here going too. The festival has also done some great things in recent years, particularly when it comes to taking events to the people in the streets.
There’s a few events that still fail to connect with Cork people for whatever reason, but bringing parties to the streets is a great idea. There are a lot of free parties and shows and gigs on the streets of Cork, and plenty of roaming activity which includes music by the likes of the young Cork Rebel Brass band and many more. This is what it’s all about really, jazz is fairly niche, so you might as well try and shove it down people’s throats in any way possible, rather than expect everyone to suddenly go to shows.
There has always been a debate in music circles about what defines jazz, and having such a big huge jazz festival in a relatively small city has inspired the odd bit of soul searching from a few people too. My own view is that the Jazz Festival can appeal to everyone. The more highbrow jazz stuff can fit in a venue such as the Triskel or the Everyman, while other more mainstream music arenas can host whatever they want really. I don’t think the likes of Aslan or other pop or rock groups are necessarily a good fit on a poster promoting a jazz festival, but I do see that the festival faces many challenges trying to sell tickets for a niche music genre to the masses.
So what about this Jazz Festival? What are the highlights? Well, today I’ll pick a few that are probably off the beaten track in a way. Not How When!, is one of those long running club nights in Cork City, that has been playing good quality soulful music for many years, in a number of venues. This jazz weekend, they bring perhaps their most acclaimed guest yet, as they welcome Bufiman aka Wolf Muller to Plug’d for a big show. He is a highly respected genre-busting DJ from Germany who produces music under a wide variety of guises, so this show is likely to sell out. He is normally more accustomed to playing much bigger venues so this is quite a coup for the Not How When team.
The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are no stranger to Cork City and they have been coming here for 10 years solid now. Combining an amazing horn section with hip-hop swagger, they are one of the most exciting jazz bands on the planet, and just like last year, they are adding daytime shows to their Cyprus Avenue schedule, so music fans of all ages can check them out. Cyprus Avenue is a lot bigger this year and the newly expanded venue should be a perfect place to see these guys live.
One artist who is debuting in Cork is Leo Miyagee, a young Belfast MC who is playing alongside myself at the River Lee Hotel on October 26. He reminds me of someone who would have been in the Pharcyde or A Tribe Called Quest back in the day, such is his style. It’s very much a fusion of jazz and hip-hop, two music genres which have always had a natural if sometimes turbulent relationship. This guy is one to watch, and he does a free show this jazz weekend in Cork.
It’s another one of of those jazz-not-jazz shows, but the visit of Motown legends Martha Reeves and the Vandellas is of personal interest too, as I’m a huge soul music fan. Ironically, jazz was at the heart of the whole Motown sound, as the Funk Brothers, who played on many of the labels hits, used to cut their teeth playing jazz music in clubs during studio breaks. Martha will be belting out her hits in the Cork City Hall!