Saturday, 4 May 2013

City Of Derry Jazz And Big Band Festival Diary, Part Two

Eclecticism and efficiency are the watchwords on an enjoyable jazzy evening in Derry-Londonderry

The hip-hop and soul that lit up Derry-Londonderry's Playhouse Theatre when David Lyttle, his family and some of his best collaborators arrived at last year's festival is nowhere to be seen this year. Rather than an urban interlude, the Waringstown-born drummer is treating us to an extremely varied instrumental interlude, one that spans more than a handful of genres. And a very good one it is too, with famed pianist Jason Rebello and in-demand Aussie bassist Damian Evans adding an extra touch of class to the proceedings.

This largely mid-tempo set has a luxurious, retro feel to it, smoothly alternating between music you can drift to and music you can groove to. Pleasant grins are as frequent as nodding heads in the theatre this evening, with Rebello's hypnotic tinkling of the ivories as attention-grabbing as Lyttle's numerous drumming styles. The smooth, dominant (but, importantly, not overbearing) sound of Rebello and Evans dovetails neatly with the versatile movement of Lyttle in an extremely solid performance.

Credit Lyttle, too, for establishing a strong rapport with the sizeable audience - "I'm just checking there's people here... Ah, there's more than one. Thank you!" - in addition to showing off his, and the band's, skills as unexpectedly macabre storytellers and all around entertainers. His Dark Tales, inspired by Charles Dickens and Edgar Allen Poe, lend an aura of coolness and haunting mystery to the surroundings, while a cover of the 'Allo 'Allo! theme tune, led expertly by Rebello, cannot help but raise smiles. It's like being in a jazz club, jazz disco, evening ball and music hall all at once, an eclectic and winning combination.

A decidedly French flavour dominates the downstairs area of the City Hotel as Les Swingin' Lovers (watch a video of their performance in the Guildhall Square from two years ago below) arrive to put on their set. Although to these ears, they seem more Rolling Stones-esque, with the lead singer repeatedly making, or at least trying to make, his presence felt, both on stage and in the audience. It's sort of difficult for the band to make a mark in such a cramped area, and being so late at night, the sing-alongs don't really come off. But to their credit, they give it a game try, and their efficient use of trombones, drums, bongos, electric guitar, sax, double bass, flute and encouraging vocals is commendable.

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