BRILLIANT C O R N E R S
Jazzwise staggers down memory lane, delves into dark corners and revisits the shrines that pepper the history of the music. THIS MONTH: METROPOLE HOTEL, CORK, IRELAND STORY: BRIAN PRIESTLEY. PHOTO: COURTESY CORK JAZZ FESTIVAL
We’re supposed to call it the Gresham Metropole, but to people in Cork it’s just “the Metropole” (like the Aviva Stadium in Dublin is still “Lansdowne Road” to everyone there). The Metropole is a big city-centre hotel with 100-odd beds but crucially including a large ballroom and many other public rooms, each with adjacent bars. It’s also central to the Cork Jazz Festival which was founded in 1978 when, faced with the cancellation of a bridge congress, the hotel’s marketing manager Jim Mountjoy went for a jazz weekend with Ronnie Scott as the main act. So successful was it that, the following year, cigarette manufacturers John Player became sponsors and, the year after that, Mountjoy went direct to Norman Granz to book Ella Fitzgerald. By then, it was necessary to use larger halls such as Cork Opera House for headliners, but the Metropole (soon designated for the weekend as the “Festival Club”) remained the hub, giving admission to several hours of music and the several bars. It helped that the government had declared the last weekend of October a bank holiday – as Gilad Atzmon told Sky Arts: “The music is always great, but there is always a lot of beer… and, on top of that, it’s a 24-hours-a-day party.” That aspect was hardly minimised when in 1982 Guinness took over sponsorship, which led to creation of a pub trail and the addition of other hotels and venues such as the Everyman Palace Theatre. The festival’s programme director since the mid-1980s, Jack McGouran, is a marketing professional with a background in journalism who became involved via other projects for Guinness, now in their thirtieth year as sponsors. “Our budget this year is the same as last year, but I don’t expect it to be the same next year,” says McGouran. “But we have reduced prices substantially, and we have changed some of the music to make it a little bit more ‘popular’.” Instancing the Honest Jon’s Chop-Up group fronted by Damon Albarn, Jack finds this preferable to the North Sea festival’s four nights by
Prince or Pori’s inclusion of Tom Jones and Elton John. McGouran himself clearly relishes his current bookings of Jean-Luc Ponty, Bill Evans/Randy Brecker, Kyle Eastwood and Ian Shaw, and was previously impressed by Brad Mehldau “and also Kurt Elling – the first time he came to Cork was fantastic.” Meanwhile, the Metropole was also known for latenight jam sessions, often centring on renowned Irish guitarist Louis Stewart and combining, for instance, Brian Lynch and Adam Nussbaum (who came with different groups) or Kirk Lightsey and Robin Eubanks. But now these will move to the Triskel Christchurch (a newly completed 4.8m Euro renovation, funded before the recession) because the Festival Club, McGouran admits, is “Not that great for listening – now it’ll be a real jazz session rather than a drinks session.” The Triskel may become a future Brilliant Corner, but meanwhile the Metropole will still be full of Irish bands and, no doubt, Irish drinkers.
Album sleeves they’d rather forget Jutta Hipp Quintet Cool Dogs & Two Oranges MGM German bop pianist Jutta Hipp worked with leading Austrian saxophonist Hans Koller in 1951 before going over to New York and making a big impression in the mid-1950s releasing three albums for Blue Note. It’s alleged she had to deal with the discrimination from being both a European and a female jazz musician in the US, which was very rare at the time,
and a lack of confidence is said to have contributed to her retirement from the jazz scene in 1958. Perhaps it’s best not to read too much into this sleeve for a 1954 German quintet recording that featured alto saxophonist Emil Mangelsdorff. But it might be this background that is the root of this rather Freudian arrangement of frankfurters and oranges. Any further questions will be dealt with discreetly by the Jazz Psychiatrist, c/o Jazzwise. Selwyn Harris
THE COLUMN THEY’RE QUEUING UP TO BE IN... The sight of two of the UK’s top jazz festival producers gyrating wildly on a disco podium to a medley of tracks from the John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John musical Grease can only mean one thing. Yup, you guessed it. It’s 3.30am in the Amigo Club in Tallinn’s Hotel Sokos Viru at September’s European Jazz Network meeting and beverage intake would appear to have been on the rather generous side. Bad behaviour though was in generally short supply with early morning starts and late into the evening Estonian jazz showcases rendering most of the party crew too tired to lift another glass. The odd late arrival at EJN meetings did perhaps point to the odd spot of secret drinking, possibly inspired by the fact the hotel, during the Soviet Union years, was a former favourite of the KGB who installed a listening and spy suite on the top floor that has now become a museum. Jazzwise editor Jon Newey was somewhat concerned as the hotel room depicted in the KGB museum brochure was the actual one he was staying in. Elsewhere at the EJN, the Dixon of Dock Green TV theme tune became a daily ritual inspired by the appointment of the new Met Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe, who would like to see a return to Dixon-era values… The late Ray Smith of Ray’s Jazz shop fame had his ashes scattered in Soho Square Gardens in mid-September followed by memorial drinks in the Blue Post pub in Soho… Reasons to be cheerful, Claire Martin reported to be recording in New York with pianist Kenny Barron… Jazz industry revellers at the London Jazz Festival launch at Smithfield Bar and Grill put on a sterling bar performance this year, perhaps to calm worries over these troubled economic times, or simply to attempt to get into these very pages. Come on down then young Rupert Burley the new boy at Air PR whose work colleagues seemed intent on breaking the poor fellow in with some unmentionable drinking pranks but who proved sensible enough to shrug their infantile behaviour off. Not so a particular thirsty gent from the F-IRE Collective whose bar antics and wild gesticulations caused onlookers to gasp in horror, or possibly admiration. Popular opinion the next day suggested that while the mojitos and wine slipped down far too easily they proved a deathly combination the next morning… Interesting aside from the actress and former Paul McCartney girlfriend Jane Asher who, when asked by The Guardian which art form she doesn’t relate to, says she “finds modern jazz quite tricky”. Even though she’s married to the artist Gerald Scarfe… Saxophonist Frank Griffith made his presence more than felt at the launch of young Mancunian crooner Alexander Stewart’s Pizza Express Jazz Club album launch in September. But what on earth was he nattering about on stage and when he strolled to the bar during the second set?... The economic crunch may be deepening daily and sit-down protests and civil disobedience has started on Wall Street and other financial hubs in the USA but that doesn’t stop the market for rare Blue Note vinyl on eBay from rising to unthinkable levels. An original deep groove 47 West 63rd St pressing of Hank Mobley’s Hank Mobley (BLP 1568) in pristine condition and said to be from the stock of famous jazz collector and auctioneer Leon Leavitt went for $5,600 in September, a new record for what is one of the very rarest Blue Note LPs.
Jazzwise \\ NOVEMBER11