Island Arts Center
Lisburn, Northern Ireland
April 26, 2013
Lisburn isn't a name that rolls off the tongue in jazz circles, or most other circles for that matter. The small Northern Irish town of 71,000 souls was granted city status in 2002, when it may have enjoyed the unique distinction of being the only city in the world without a hotel. Times change, however, and now the city has quite a nice one. Lisburn can also boast the Island Arts Centre, a truly fine promoter of local and international art in all its manifestations, and it may be the arts that finally put Lisburn on the map. What is more, Lisburn is now home to a jazz singer of real note in Dana Masters, and her performance at the Island Arts Center, heading a thoroughly impressive sextet, will long be remembered for the exceptional quality of her voice. Admittedly, Masters is originally from South Carolina, but she's made Lisburn her home.
New York saxophonist Meilana Gillard has also dropped anchor on these shores, enlivening the local jazz scene and raising the bar a notch or two. This mightn't seem that newsworthy, but it is for the small Northern Irish jazz community, which hasn't produced jazz musicians/groups in the past the way it has pop or rock bands. In fact, the influx of foreigners to Northern Ireland in the last decade is one of the greatest of the peace dividends that have come with the effective ending of the armed conflict. This greater cosmopolitanism not only signals the ongoing process of normalization/rehabilitation but enriches the fabric of society, and jazz is just one of the arenas that has benefited.
Trumpeter and acting emcee Linley Hamilton knows all this to be true: "We have a very special
sextet," he told the packed Studio Theater, "all naturalized or renationalized Northern Irish
musicians from foreign parts who we've claimed as our own. We've either got them married off or we've got them going out with someone from here and we're not going to let any of them ever leave the county with their passports." Having safely kidnapped the Americans, the set began minus Masters, with the quintet launching into pianist Scott Flannigan's "N Eleven."
With saxophonist Wayne Shorter an obvious blueprint, this post-bop workout bristled with collective energy. Impressive opening statements from trumpet, saxophone and piano, swung hard by drummer Steve Davis and bassist Carl Harvey, set out markers for the rest of the evening. Masters' arrival took the band back a couple more decades to Louis Jordan's 1944 hit "Is You Is or is You Ain't My Baby." From a gently swinging opening that featured Linley and Flannigan, Masters steered the band into bolder territory, her voice full of the gospel blues of Nina Simone. A set of jazz standards sung by a lesser vocalist might have seemed a little staid, but Masters possessed refreshingly original interpretive skills in addition to a voice to die for. A deliciously infectious drum and bass into to "My Funny Valentine" set the course for a modern take on an old chestnut, with Masters shifting effortlessly through the gears, her voice a melting pot of jazz, soul and R&B.
"Summertime" was given a similar facelift, the straight-ahead solos underpinned by Harvey's
less-is-more funk bass lines and Davis' snappy back beat. Equally comfortable on the ballads, "The Nearness of You" and "The Very Thought of You," Masters' warm tone and nuanced delivery was lent sympathetic support by the soloists, with Davis switching to brushes and mallet. Often seen in an improvised music context, notably in the Bourne/Kane/Davis trio, Davis showed that he's also a highly attuned accompanist. Even the best singers only sound as good as the musicians around them, but Masters has aligned herself with some of the most talented musicians in the UK and Ireland and sang with the relaxed confidence that comes with complete faith in her sextet.
Heavily pregnant with twins, Masters slipped off stage for a breather—or breathing exercises
—leaving the quintet to blow hard on Gillard's swinging "Identity," from her Day One (Inner Circle Music, 2008). Masters then returned to give a soulful rendition of "Georgia," her voice climbing to a storming climax. Vintage jazz standards like trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's "Night in Tunisia" and Shorter's wickedly catchy "Witch Hunt" rubbed shoulders with more soulful repertoire such as Charlie Chaplin's dreamy ballad, "Smile." A stirring version of singer Etta James' signature tune, "At Last," closed the set with Masters in commanding form.
Si's Sights And Sounds
Next stop, Sandinos' Back Bar, for one of the best musicians I have heard all weekend - trumpet man Linley Hamilton. His medium tempo brass solos are simply irresistible, giving you the refreshing feeling of slipping into a comfortable bathrobe. Along with drummer Dominic Mullan, bassist Damian Evans and keyboard player Johnny Taylor, he provides a smooth, soothing series of notes, the perfect calm before the Neil Cowley storm.
Si's Sights And Sounds City Of Derry Jazz And Big Festival Awards 2013!
Best Pianist: Neil Cowley
Best Guitarist: Louis Stewart
Best Saxophonist: Gay McIntyre
Best Bass Player: Rex Horan
Best Trumpeteer: Linley Hamilton
Linley Hamilton“Taylor Made” (Lyte Records LR006)
Trumpeter Linley Hamilton is part of the burgeoning Northern Ireland jazz scene. The Belfast based musician has worked extensively in both the jazz and pop/rock genres appearing with artists such as fellow compatriot Van Morrison plus Jean Toussaint, Jacqui Dankworth, Ken Peplowski, Foy Vance, Paul Brady and The Commitments. He also introduces a late night jazz show on Radio Ulster with the appropriate title of “After Midnight”. His latest album appears on Irish drummer David Lyttle’s Lyte Records and is an accomplished “modern mainstream” set featuring an interesting selection of jazz standards, contemporary jazz compositions and arrangements of classic pop tunes.
There is some good jazz coming out of Ulster these days, and trumpeter Linley Hamilton is one of the people making it. His CV includes work with Van Mor rison and Paul Brady as well as more mainstream jazz connections, and the choice of mate rial here includes tunes by Carole King and Paul Simon alongside more obvious jazz fare. Hamilton’s fine bop-inspired work on trumpet and fl ugelhorn is underpinned by pianist Johnny Taylor and a solid rhythm section, and Taylor’s arranging contribution is also the source of the album’s titl e.
By GRAINNE FARRENSunday August 28 2011
"HAVE a good time," exclaimed Linley Hamilton in JJ Smyth's last Sunday night. As an exhortation it was unnecessary, since everyone was already having a ball. In fact, it was the name of a tune by Paul Simon, and the quartet went on to play it in ebullient style.
Louise Dodds moved to London some time ago to further her career as a jazz singer but she returned to an old haunt, the Jazz Bar, to launch her new album, Fly, and was rewarded with a good turn-out and an attentive audience, at least until the lateness of the hour fostered, as it were, more relaxation.
Published: August 20, 2011
It's rare that an artist names an album after one of his sidemen, but Belfast-based trumpeter Linley Hamilton clearly values the contributions that pianist Johnny Taylor made to this recording.
Both men share a vision, regarding the manner in which they should address traditions while also putting their own stamp on these well-known numbers, and their empathetic rapport is evident from the very start.
Trumpeter Linley Hamilton is a central figure in the burgeoning Northern Ireland jazz scene. He's an experienced musician, with a résumé that includes work with Van Morrison, Ken Peplowski and Jean Toussaint; being a broadcaster, whose Radio Ulster After Midnight program showcases new jazz; a writer and producer. Above all, he's a man with a genuine love of jazz and a desire to support and develop the music. It takes no more than a few bars of "Without A Song," the opening tune on Taylor Made, for Hamilton to transmit this love through one of the warmest and most welcoming of trumpet sounds.
Taylor MadeLyte Records ***
For this solidly swinging mainstream/bop CD, trumpeter and flugelhornist Linley Hamilton assembled a fine rhythm section in Dan Bodwell (bass), Dominic Mullan (drums) and Johnny Taylor (piano), who presumably contributes the skilful arrangements that frame each performance. Hamilton is one of the best trumpeters on the local scene, with a fluent, mobile style and a lyrical imagination. He’s so well equipped technically that he could push the stylistic boundaries much further if he was so inclined. In the meantime his and Taylor’s mastery of the mainstream idiom makes for an impressively well executed album with some unusual choices of repertoire, among them the Wasserfuhr brothers’ Fade a Little , Woody Shaw’s Rosewood, Carole King’s Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow and Paul Simon’s buoyantly rocking Have a Good Time.