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Guinness Cork Jazz Festival – holy wow

Tuesday morning was tough. Not so much the alarm going off or the early start, more the realisation I was no longer in Cork. Not my first Guinness Cork Jazz Festival weekend but my first time really throwing myself into it and I absolutely loved it.

From the sound of musicians rehearsing floating down the hotel hallway to the mixture of ages and cultures of those attending the various gigs around the city it was a fantastic inspiring experience helped in no small way by the fact that Cork is by far the best city in Ireland (there will be an entire post about that alone!).


YolanDa Brown
YolanDa Brown

My favourite gig over the entire weekend was saxophonist YolanDa Brown on Sunday at The Savoy. I danced and swayed my way happily through set and can’t wait to get my mits on her album. She’s gorgeous, she’s energetic and a seriously talented musician. Herself and her band get top marks for their rendition of Summertime – a song that naturally appeared on setlists all through the weekend. If you’re not sure where to begin with trying your ear at some jazz, start with YolanDa.

Yurodny took to the stage of the beautiful Everyman Palace Theatre on Saturday afternoon. A lively and masterful performance from the Dublin-based ensemble of strings, wind and percussion with their Eastern European influences shining through.

On Saturday evening, the Monty Alexander Trio opened for Kurt Elling. A lovely mellow sound created with drum, bass and piano with Jamaican and American influences woven throughout, they delivered a superb set that seemed to please both the jazz connoisseur and the passing admirer. Notable moments included their gorgeous version of No Woman No Cry and a nice bit of improv featuring the Beverly Hills Cop theme tune.

My first adventures in swing dancing were interesting and lots of fun at Harlem Night 1930 where swing dance moves were demonstrated on stage to swing newbies (like myself). Most of the crowd were quite into their swing dancing and were amazing to watch in their gorgeous 30′s outfits.

Jazz mass‘ was probably one of the more bizarre experiences of the weekend with Danish band Bla Mondag and an African gospel choir interwoven into the service at the famous St. Anne’s Church at Shandon.


No festival with such a huge volume of stuff is without disappointments here and there. I hit mine on Saturday night at Kurt Elling at the Everyman. While it was billed as one of the ‘not to be missed’ gigs of the weekend, I felt it was more of an endurance than an experience. As I said in my tweets, his singing was flat and the improv too long-winded and uninspiring. Hats off to his grammy award-winning saxophonist – amazing musician – just a shame he didn’t see more of the limelight.

Despite the fact the festival is always held on the October Bank Holiday weekend, some things like hotel and drink prices seem to get rather inflated. For example, a paper cup of filter coffee at the Festival Club was a slightly saucy €3 and in another venue (can’t recall where, there were many!) a quarter bottle of red wine was €6.

So much to see, hear & do

Harlem Nights 1930
Harlem Nights 1930

I quite honestly can’t recall all the bands and singers I listened to over the weekend, mainly with the sheer volume of stuff on at the Festival Club at the Metropole. The Festival Club consisted of 5 ballrooms in one huge hotel constantly rotating through a huge schedule of jazzy acts from lunchtime till the early hours. There almost wasn’t a door in the city be it theatre, pub, hotel or even shop that didn’t have some kind of jazz flowing out of it either!

Apart from the quick swing dancing lesson at the Firkin Crane, I didn’t get a chance to try out any of the workshops, masterclasses or check out the festival fringe events.

Cork is a fantastic city and the  Jazz Festival just seems to set the place alight. It was simply buzzing with energy, happy faces and tapping toes (and possibly the odd sore head too!). It’s a wonderful weekend, even for someone like me who has always been more of an ‘all genres of music’ enthusiast than a jazz fan.

Darragh has some superb videos and photos in the production pipeline, I’ll leave him to put into his own words how his first Cork Jazz Festival was suffice to say I think we’ll both be doing our best to get back there for the Cork Jazz Festival 2010!

Thanks to WHPR and Guinness for everything over the weekend and congrats to all involved on a wonderful festival.