On Sunday, a freezing cold, rainy night in Dublin, when 5000 brave souls were taking part in a nighttime 10km run through the city, I went into the United Arts Club (a members club on Fitzwilliam Street) for a jazz gig. I’ve been to the Arts Club once before, playing piano at a Christmas party, and apparently the place has had a bit of a sprucing up recently. It still retains the homely quality that makes it so charming and was a perfect venue for listening to the music. The room is a double-size Georgian living room and comfortably accomodated the audience of about 30 who attended. Everything sounded good — they used a Nord keyboard rather than the upright that’s there, and the double bass and the guitar went through amps, too.
Barry Rycraft led the group through a set that started with a Charles Mingus tune, Moanin’. Sam Comerford was out front on tenor sax and plays with a great tone through the whole range of the instrument. The head of the tune features a catchy motif — "BooooodlyapBAP", I reckon! I was mightily impressed by pianist Leopold Osio, too, who turned out some lovely playing on this tune.
After this tasty opener, we heard three large-scale compositions of Barry’s. ‘Mister Biscuits’ was influenced by Mingus and this was most evident in the bass solo, accompanied only by the other band members clapping a simple ostinato that Barry played over. Rhythm is something that features heavily in what I’ve heard of Barry’s writing and he really went to town on this solo, exploring all kinds of rhythmic counterpoint that must’ve kept the band on their toes! It was certainly really engaging as an audience member to follow the piece through its various sections.
Next, they played ‘Tuesday’, a swirling bolero in five (as opposed to the familiar three — think of Ravel’s famous ostinato: dum ratata-ta-ta dum-ta). I played piano in a trio with Barry and Satya Darcy (on drums last night) when this piece was in its infancy and it was great to hear it with the augmented group. All grown up but still cute as hell!
Lastly, we had the rocking ‘Twelve Year Itch’. I remember this one, too, from when Barry first wrote it. Again central to the piece is a captivating rhythmic idea that sets the members of the group against each other in counterpoint to create a compelling power chord mosaic over which the sax soars with a muscular minor 3rd riff. (At the very end, everyone’s accents coincide finally in an emphatic ending that releases us satisfyingly from the piece’s grip.) Featured this time was Dan Soro on electric guitar (a rather nice Fender Stratocaster which he used for this tune only). His solo was over a new section of music that seemed to climb ever upwards as he played. Loved it!
Barry and the band are playing on Thursday night in the Kevin Barry Room at The National Concert Hall. He is graduating from the Newpark School of Music BA in Jazz Performance and this marks the culmination of four years training. The gig is free and starts at 7pm.