Yazz Ahmed and Vocal Stars Shine at Sligo Jazz Project

John Philip Murray reports back from a busy week music and jazz education at the renowned Irish jazz summer school

Each July, international stars arrive – players, tutors and friends to the 126 participants – and Sligo becomes JazzTown for a week; alive with, masterclasses, ensembles, lectures, twice-daily organised jams, gigs and concerts.

Yazz Ahmed’s concert was superb. The Bahraini-born, UK-based composer playing trumpet/flügelhorn and mixed electronic effects, fronted the Scottish Youth Jazz Orchestra (SYJO) boasting four gifted females in the ranks.

Layered compositions explored human experiences via 'Ruby Bridges' – youthful innocence facing malevolent forces, inspired by the first black student attending class following New Orleans desegregation. 'Goddess Siduri (the Epic of Gilgamesh)' through Sufi, to La Saboteuse - that voice blocking creativity. Yazz's playing, matched her compositions and SYJO were terrific, whether devouring big-band fare, with Andrew Bain, or nailing Middle Eastern grooves with Malcolm Edmonstone.

'Unforgettable: The Magic of Nat King Cole' was unforgettable, the magnetic Sachal Vasandani displaying grace and fellowship, with a sparkling big band. Other concerts included: bassist Federico Malaman’s Malafede Trio with, lyrical-funky guitarist, Riccardo Bertuzzi, musical drummer Ricky Quagliato with guest saxophonist, ever-creative, Paul Booth. Jean Toussaint guested with Sligo alumnus, guitarist Andreas Varady’s Trio. Anna-Maria Hefele's overtone singing contrasted her 'conventional’ early-music offerings, and bassist Michael Pipoquinha led Pedro Martins, guitar, Adriano DD percussion and, Leonardo Montana’s glowing piano.

Anchored by the wise bass of John Goldsby, whose contribution to SJP cannot be exaggerated, 26 supremely talented tutors gave standout performances: vibrant vocalists, Liane Carroll and Sara Colman, Cathal Roche and Matt Halpin's sublime saxes, Shannon Barnett and Paul Dunlea's soaring trombones, Hugh Buckley, Mike Nielsen and Joseph Leighton’s guitars, Scott Flanigan and Kieran Quinn’s keys, Paul Clarvis, Steve Davis and David Lyttle pulsed, melodic Linley Hamilton and stratospheric Ryan Quigley trumpeted and Mr. Sligo Jazz , Eddie Lee’s, bass shone. The main stage welcomed SJP alumni Conor and Michael Murray.

The extraordinary exchanges between Giridhar Udupa, (ghatam & konnakol) and Quagliato's drums will live long in the memory.

– Photos by Lieve Boussauw

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