Since the demise of RTE Lyric’s Jazz Alley, which broadcast every week from the first weekend of the station’s existence until it was axed at the end of 2015, there has been no regular national programme devoted to jazz. The Hot Box aims to fill that gap with former Jazz Alley presenter Donald Helme.
The Hot Box sets the best of Irish recorded jazz in the wider context of the universal language that is jazz worldwide. It tries to emphasise accessability and sheer enjoyment, and is building an audience well beyond the shores of its home country.
The 17th iteration of The Hot Box finds us back in pursuit of jazz piano genius by delving into the files, and this time around we have reached the letter F.
F finds us in rich territory with Cuban maestro Roberto Fonseca, Italian Antonio Farao with top-drawer US bandmates, and the Flanagans, the late Tommy spelled with an “A”, and the young Irish master Scott, spelled with an “I”. The programme concludes with two tracks from 84 year-old Dave Frishberg, swinging pianist, songwriter and vocalist.
In The Hot Box #16 we take a listen to many of the just-released new albums, and also pay tribute to one of jazz’s most luminous pianists, who died in June from cancer at the age of 60, Geri Allen. Geri featured in Hot Box No.7 when we checked out pianists filed under the letter A!
The new material includes a wide range of singers from the latest wonder voice in America, Jazzmeia Horn, to our own Aoife Doyle from her new, self-penned quartet album “Clouds”. Also included are tracks from Diana Krall’s latest album “Turn Up the Quiet”. The show also makes good an omission from Pianists filed under the letter D from Hot Box 12, where tracks from Irish pianist John Donegan were unavailable. John’s new solo album, Jen’s Progress is duly sampled here!
Continuing the epic series on piano players in jazz, Donald has reached the letter E, where he finds one of the most important and influential pianists of all time, Bill Evans. It is probably true that almost all piano players in the modern era have been, to some extent, influenced by Evans.
He was something of a prodigy and began earning money from his music whilst still a teenager, but it wasn’t until he was 30, in 1959, and recorded with Miles Davis on the biggest selling jazz album of all time, Kind of Blue, that he reached beyond a small base of aficionados and found a wider public.
This is a BIG Hot Box, responding to the demands of listeners for a Big Band Special. However, it doesn’t contain the standard historic fare of Basie, Ellington and Herman. Instead you’ll find the one-off bands of bassists Ron Carter (celebrating his 80th birthday this year) and Christian McBride, the modern sounds of both Bob Mintzer’s Big Band and The Big Phat Band from Hollywood, California, and from above the 49th Parallel, the Grammy winning band of trombonist Rob McConnell, The Boss Brass. You’ll also find some tracks laid down by Dublin’s Hot House Big Band, now commencing a residency at Harry’s on The Green.
As a pause for breath, Hot Box 14 also features new material from Irish jazz singer Edel Meade, from Brazilian singer and pianist Eliane Elias’ new album on Concord, “Dance of Time”, and from New England pianist Pete Malinvarni’s new album “Heaven”.
In the 13th edition of The Hot Box, Donald looks for pianists filed under the letter D, and plays pieces from Aaron Diehl, Kenny Drew Jr, and Jim Doherty. Some omissions of course but as a generality, surnames beginning with D seem not to provoke adoption of the piano as an instrument of choice!
As widely celebrated, the year 1917 saw the beginning of recorded jazz, but was also the birth year of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk. Ella at 100, a 4-CD box has just been released on Verve, and Jon Beasley’s MONK-estra Volume 1 offers some tempting examples of Monk restated for a big orchestra. (Don’t worry, Dizzy comes along in the next Hot Box!)
The “Unreliable Memory” in HB13 continues reflections on The Fox Inn in Ashbourne Co. Meath, epicentre of jazz in Ireland in the late 1960s, where unbelievably, Keith Jarrett was in residence for a week at the precise moment he was starting out as a leader, after his popular sideman role with the Charles Lloyd Quartet. And the Fox also hosted one of the most important figures in vocal jazz, Jon Hendrix, on two separate occasions, plus another third of the popular vocal group Lambert, Hendrix & Ross, Scotland’s Annie Ross.
In the 12th edition of The Hot Box we establish a flashback to jazz events in Ireland in the distant past. In Hot Box 11 we heard how a hotel in Ballsbridge had not one, but two resident jazz groups, and how members of the famous Ray Charles big band used to sit in. "Free jazz for the price of half a pint" said our correspondent, who was an impecunious student in 1964.
Now dubbed Unreliable Memories, in the next historic tale, Donald Helme recalls Ireland’s Number 1 location for the presentation of jazz in the late 1960s, The Fox Inn in Ballymadun, Ashbourne, Co. Meath! Purchased by American saxophonist Jim Riley, when the gents toilet was the next door field, and the nightly takings were £5, the remote country pub became a haven for jazz fans for about 6 years, with residencies by the likes of Keith Jarrett, Jon Hendrix , Annie Ross, John Surman, Mal Waldron and Lee Konitz.
The 11th edition of The Hot Box takes a new turn on the A-Z of pianists, and digresses to pay tribute to the recently deceased guitar hero Larry Coryell, who died on February 19th, not long after declaring that he wished to come and settle in Ireland! His dislike of the recent political events in the USA were well publicised. He is a sad loss to the jazz world, and The Hot Box has mined the archives for 2 pieces recorded with a quartet (including Fintan O’Neill) in Dublin back in 2004.