Guinness Jazz Festival, Cork, Ireland
As if on cue, a Dixieland band struck up When the Saints Go Marching In as passengers disembarked at the airport. In a city that is reeling from the recession â€” as every taxi driver reminds you â€” the festival banished memories of the painful demise of the Celtic Tiger.
Some of the most audacious music was to be found in Kurt Elling’s late-night date in the ornate Victorian setting of the Everyman Palace Theatre. If the air-conditioning system seemed to be of Victorian vintage too, the American singer brought his distinctive brand of cool to a programme that cleverly juggled Beat lyricism with more conventional ballads from his excellent new album, Dedicated to You, a celebration of the Sixties encounter between John Coltrane and the velvet-voiced Johnny Hartman.
Elling’s instrumental-based approach can sometimes be overly self-conscious â€” on a steamy evening he risked alienating those listeners who preferred the more romantic Coltrane-Hartman numbers to his spikier, improvisational forays. But with the pianist Laurence Hobgood nudging the rhythm section along, and that cultured veteran Ernie Watts making a guest appearance in the Coltrane role, the performance turned the venue into an intimate club. All or Nothing At All put a cerebral spin on Sinatra’s legacy; Nature Boy became an existentialist journey, while Elling turned on the wry humour with a stream-of-consciousness rap, punctuated with Hobgood’s blues licks, about trying to keep up with the party crowd.