Special thanks to Melody McLaren and Garvan Browne for the photos shown here
Thursday (Day 1)
So, we land at Shannon on Thursday and no sooner are we there I meet Brian one of the volunteer drivers for the weekend who I knew to see from 10 years previously. At this stage I’m expecting to have to wait for my room to be ready at the hotel as we are in so early – the unanswered question for me is whether I have to go to a radio studio to perform with Rene Marie (whom I hadn’t met as yet) on Pat Kenny’s Newstalk or not? A call from Stephen Keogh to check whether I’ve arrived or not and to say it looks like we are still on. Upon arrival at the Hotel Isaac, my home for the Cork duration I find out that I won’t be needed for the broadcast and am somewhat relieved as I’m beginning to fade…
David with Garrison Fewell and our Benedettos
(Evening) – I wake up from a nap and catch up with a few of my friends in the lobby who are in for the festival including the Berklee contingent. I meet Garrison Fewell for the first time and we become friends instantly. The big event for night one is a dinner for all of us at the Isaac Restaurant on McCurtain Street. Here, we get to further know our new friends while Jack and Deirdre (in absentia due to a traffic stoop motor accident just outside Dublin) from Quest Public Relations are hosts to a wonderful kick off to proceedings. On a personal note – earlier in the day I had walked past a great fish and chip shop, or as we call it: a chipper and I couldn’t wait another day. Fried in lard like the good old chippers did before cholesterol was invented 🙂
Friday (Day 2)
I have surrendered myself to the Irish Breakfast and it feels like old times as we sit in the restaurant surrounded by musicians. First on the agenda is a trip to the Cork City School of Music to scope out the equipment and see if I can project from my laptop on to a screen for my arranging masterclass. I run in to Stephen Keogh who introduces me to John O’Connor who has led a big band with students for so many years that he is now a breeding ground for great musicians who come out of their teens with enough ensemble experience to send them on their way. Many are now the leading big band section players and some were playing in the pit of West End shows. John invites me to join him for a coffee and I am struck by his welcome. I felt a kinship with John from my work with the kids in JSYO in New York. Let me just say that whatever we end up doing you can be sure that young musicians are the ones who will benefit from this.
(Evening) – The first workshop is upon me. I am teaching an Advanced Arranging Techniques class in the Doolan Room in the Cork City School. The vast majority of those attending this afternoon session seem to be guitar players who are not experienced at all in arranging, in other words, not the targeted audience! Most of the students who would want to attend a workshop like this are busy doing gigs given that this is Jazz Fest weekend in Cork. I make a decision to stick with advanced techniques BUT present them in hopefully a more simplified overview. The following day is a beginners arranging class and I give an overview of what I will present there as a way of explaining the concept of analyzing and harmonizing a melody.
(Late Night) I make my first appearance at the jam session which is hosted by my good friend Fintan O’Neill along with Dave Redmond on bass and Kevin Brady on drums (the latter are two out of three players from the Singer’s Corner rhythm section the next day. To quote a favorite song – I Stayed Too Long At The Fair 🙂 and was paying for it next day!
Saturday (Day 3)
(Morning) Today I do my first double: an arranging masterclass called Jumping In At The Deep End targeting beginners. There some who attended the previous day here but the vast majority are advanced arrangers at a beginner’s workshop…the polar opposite to yesterday! This is a most enjoyable and they ask a lot of good questions. I run about an hour overtime due many to the subject matter at hand but also a reminder, I am now on 3 hours sleep – yes, just like old times in Cork.
(Afternoon) Starting around 1:30pm I show up at the Everyman Theater Bar to be of assistance to any singers who might need a little guidance with their keys etc. This time I have someone helping me and what a surprise for everyone this was. Rene Marie joined us for the whole run of Singer’s Corner – Yes! Top to bottom two days. She was there for 4 hours as we both presented to each vocalist our immediate reaction to what was working in their performance, areas where they could maybe improve on etc. We were also there to help first timers overcome their fears, conquer demons planted by others who should have known better and all this was done with the marvelous accompaniment of the Phil Ware Trio – Phil on piano, Dave redmond – bass and Kevin Brady – drums. This was a special day. Yes, this was a special day for other reasons too – my good friend Bill Johnson’s wife Phil came down along with her daughter Deirdre and Deirdre’s daughter, his son Billy and they stayed for a lot of the session enjoying the vocalists. Bill had passed away suddenly – blanked on how long now as it feels like yesterday and to say the least, I was thinking about him a lot. Bill was one of those people I regard as a pure human being and he was the best friend anyone could wish for. He loved jazz, he loved people and most of all he loved his family. Seeing his family and also Tony O’Neill from the Cork committee helped me to not be negative…
(Evening) – Also at that session was someone I have known for many years and always liked. I probably initially developed my friendship with John Philip Murray vicariously through his long standing friend Dave Fleming. Dave had in fact sent me a message to say John was nearby and would love to catch up if I had time…Have time? Whoever has time or can keep appointments in Cork during jazz festival? Yours truly and JPM apparently – we had dinner that night with John, Bernadette and their son Jean Louis and I couldn’t help but feel yet again how blessed I am when I’m surrounded by such great people. John played drums in a trio with Dave Fleming and Killian Skeagh )sp?) when they went to school together – John would later pursue painting and now is a full time painter (ok since he still plays drums – full time artist). More on the Murrays in the next few days.
(Late Night) – On to the late night jam session in the Metropole and again Fintan and the lads are doing a magnificent job. Lots of great musicians sitting in Perico Sambeat, Garrison Fewell, Matt Marvuligio and two beautiful and gifted young ladies who had graduated Berklee School and were now representing them at the festival Caili O’Doherty, an extraordinarily gifted pianist (I loved how she built her solos) and Israeli born saxophonist Lihi Hervura also extraordinarily gifted! Albert Sanz also sat in on piano along with Stephen Keogh and bassist Alex Davis. Another great and LATE night!
Sunday (Day 4)
(Morning) Today I got up for breakfast and went back to get some sleep which I followed by a bath. I loved taking the time to relax and have a bath instead of the more perfunctory shower. Knowing we are helping and inspiring many people to take even a step closer to a dream is never far from thoughts as I lie back and let my thoughts flow… a nice feeling
(Afternoon) This time we start at 1pm at the Everyman Theater Bar again to be of assistance to any singers who might need a little guidance with their keys etc. Again we are joined by the lady with the biggest heart Rene Marie only the difference now is that the word is out and we are getting several last minute requests to sign up. The restaurant industry often keep some tables back for walk ins and I’ve been doing the same. Again, we have a long session and I am left humbled by Rene’s commitment to sharing as she gives 5 hours to this. Once again the Phil Ware Trio are delivering at a level that has Rene saying, both on AND off mic “This trio are awesome!” and they were. My niece Aideen and her fiancé Phillip arrive at the Everyman Bar and have driven down for the day. We meet for dinner in the restaurant at the hotel but not before I get Rene a shot of Midleton Whisky to celebrate the success of our impromptu collaboration over the last two days.
(Evening) Plans for a quiet evening or even a nap before ‘maybe’ hitting the jam session are dashed when I meet Paul Dunlea on my way back from walking Aideen and Philip to their car. 5 minutes later I’m in the Everyman listening to the Mingus Band tear it up with Paul the architect of getting me in. Backstage to see some friends and I introduce Paul to Clark Guyton, Tatum Greenblatt, Abraham Burton and anyone else we see.
(Late night) – Yep – I did it again – another late one…This time we have a great mix of all the musicians at festival jamming together Americans, Continental Europeans, Irish and British all taking no prisoners. Again I was almost the last to leave and I finished off with a cup of tea with Fintan back at our hotel.
Monday (Day 5)
John Philip Murray
(Morning) On the agenda today – very much looking forward to a gig with Paul Dunlea and a band of local musicians who I have yet to meet. First, though, John Philip Murray is coming by to take me out to his house and studio to see where he’s been creating his art for some years now. Chatting on the way out, the drive and it’s scenery remind me of how beautiful this great country is. Despite my exhaustion I find myself being pulled towards some paintings in John’s studio. I realize I haven’t been present with an artist and his paintings, in his studio…since the late Gerald Davis. Soon it is time to head back to the Crane Lane Theater where the gig with Paul is happening.
(Afternoon) We hit the stage at Crane Lane but not before I have met Linda Ibbotson, a poet and photographer who I have only met on Facebook, also see some of the vocalists from our Singers Corner sessions in the audience. Over to my right, looking into the audience is darkly lit so I don’t see all the faces clearly but I see Fintan, and Garvan Browne has arrived from Dublin to drive me back up for the next leg of my trip home. I don’t see Garvan’s wife Cathy right away because of the aforementioned lighting but when I do I wonder have I been staring in that direction and not saying hello (I forgot to ask Cathy later on). Band are great – Cormac McCarthy on piano and two Daves on bass (Duffy) and drums (need to find out from Paul). Funny off the cuff from Paul “Any singers in the house?” nobody responds..Paul “To be honest I wouldn’t admit it myself…” 🙂
(Evening) Now for the drive to Dublin – Cathy gets me a bag of chips to keep me going until we get dinner in Dublin. BTW these chips were fantastic! I can’t get over how quickly we reach Dublin with all the new post Celtic-Tiger roads. Cathy falls asleep and Garvan and I are beginning to take the lid off a project we have been working towards for nearly two decades – this is the main reason I am going to Dublin. At this point we are a long way from going into even minor detail with the public – too early but when the time is right we will.
Dinner in a Chinese Restaurant in Castleknock and back to Garvan and Cathy’s home in the Strawberry Beds area of Dublin.
Tuesday (Day 6)
Plan today is to get cracking on initial stages of project and later head for Dublin to meet Aideen and Philip again. This takes place around mid afternoon and then off to Phoenix FM for a live radio broadcast with Garvan and Chris Hitchcock in a Halloween themed soundtrack broadcast. They play some great music and both DJs show some very informative background knowledge of the genre. Hit the chipper on way home fro one last time – getting old, neither Garvan or I can finish our ‘one-and-one’! I fall asleep almost during the opening credits of the 3D version of Dial M for Murder that Garvan Projects on to a large screen – Garvan always knew how to look at a movie in style going back as long as I’ve known him!
Wednesday (Day 7)
Too early in the morning and we’re up and at it. Garvan is driving me to Shannon Airport thanks to the mistaken booking that had me flying from Shannon and not Dublin. Why? Because I wanted to arrive in Newark which is very near me as opposed to JFK – way too far for anyone living in New Jersey. Garvan was treated to an assault of an O’Rourke snorefest for a good deal of the way down. Thus means I slept through much of the new motorway that connects Dublin to Limerick so quickly compared to the days when I lived in Ireland. After a BLT with Irish Bacon I’m in the air for Heathrow. On arrival at Heathrow we are greeted by The news that our flight is delayed by “up to 5 hours” with no further information and are given a voucher for app. $20 for food in terminal. I cash mine in at a restaurant/bar called Dining Street. It is here that I get chatting to Miles who is on the same flight and doing the same thing as me. Miles is different though, he travels so much on business that he is able to use the United lounge and has gone for a walk to break the monotony. As I pay my heck Miles tells me that he is entitled to 2 or more guests in the lounge and very kindly invites me to join him. Minutes later I find myself in the most relaxed surroundings with free wifi and free everything and most of all great company. A simple gesture of kindness by this man changed my life for the duration of the flight delay.
(Northern Lights) About two hours into our flight we are awoken by the Captain who has previously promised no PA announcements during the flight. “You have to see this…” said the Captain as he directed us to a wonderful display of Northern Lights and I strike another one off my bucket list. After that it was supposed to be a simple drive to the home stretch but a sleepy cab driver almost drives off the road and misses our exit… Home finally now to sleep.