"Good things happen to good people," jazz promoter Dominic Reily told the audience by way of introduction to Linley Hamilton's afternoon concert, which kick-started the second day of BJF 2018. In his multiple roles as BBC broadcaster, university lecturer and bandleader, Hamilton is arguably the hardest-working jazz musician in the Wild West that is Ireland, endlessly criss-crossing the country—trumpet and sheet music in tow—like a character from Wacky Races. A tireless advocate for jazz and its practitioners, particularly the upcoming talent, Hamilton has given much to the music. Now it seems, with Making Other Arrangements(Teddy D Records, 2018) poised for international exposure, the music is giving Hamilton something back.
Having played the very first edition of Bray Jazz Festival trumpeter Hamilton returned with a large ensemble of eighteen musicians for the live premiere of Making Other Arrangements. This project had been a quarter of a century in the making since Hamilton first heard Freddie Hubbard's orchestrally buoyed album Ride Like The Wind(Elektra/Musician, 1982)—vowing then that one day he would realize a similarly inspired work.
With pianist/arranger Cian Boylan, the twelve-piece string ensemble and a crack unit of some of Ireland's best jazz musicians crammed onto the creaking stage of the Parochial Hall, Hamilton led a programme of classic tunes from the popular standard repertoire before a full house. Hamilton's total command of his instrument was evident from the off; on Artie Butler's "Here's to Life" and Hubbard's "Brigitte" both his balladry and his more robust soloing were characterized by the warmth of his tone. Hamilton however, surrounds himself with great players, and there were also telling individual contributions from saxophonists Ben Castleand Brendan Doyle—who both doubled on woodwinds—Nigel Clarkeon guitar, drummer Guy Rickarby, and switching between double and electric bass, Dave Redmond.
Hamilton switched to flugelhorn on a gorgeous rendition of James Taylor's ballad "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." Covered in the past by Michael Brecker, James Moodyand George Benson, this song's adoption by jazz musicians is indicative of the shift towards a modernizing of the interpretative repertoire. Increasingly, singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Paul Simonand bands like Radioheadare providing grist to the mill of jazz musicians and making elbow room alongside the classics of The Great American songbook. Hamilton's lovely trumpet-and-strings interpretation of Earth Wind and Fire's "After the Love Has Gone" and Michel Legrand's "What are you Doing the Rest of your Life?" were further proof of that.
Elegant tribute to jazz giants Dizzy Gillespieand Abdullah Ibrahimcame with "Con Alma" and an exquisite version of "Joan Capetown Flower." A couple of original tunes also stood out; the slinky, Henri Mancini-esque jazz-funk of Boylan's "Cat and Mouse" and guest vocalist Dana Masters's "Because of You" -an infectious slice of grooving R&B that has huge summer hit written all over it. Masters took to the stage on several occasions, injecting some Southern Carolina soul into proceedings. Her rousing performance on Frank Golde/Peter Ivers "Louisiana Sunday Afternoon," with Hamilton in inspired form, was a set highlight.
The concert closed with, "Carmel," a striking tune written by Hamilton's wife Maggie Doyle. To the surprise of all, dancer Nadine Hegarty—Director of Fireworks Dance Drama and Theatre Academy in Derry—sprang from the wings and improvised a stunning jazz-cum-ballet dance in front of the unsuspecting audience. The poetic weave of music and dance provided a fitting finale to a memorable concert. A standing ovation ensued.
Hamilton's Making Other Arrangementsis on the road for the rest of this year and next, with shows in Ireland, the UK, Italy, Canada and South Africa already on the cards. It is, as Hamilton's manger Dominic Reily intimated at the start of the afternoon, the wider exposure that this extremely talented trumpeter has long deserved. Good things indeed.