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.
In the 31st episode of The Hot Box, Donald Helme plays all-new material from a range of sources including some of the best new releases from Ireland. Music from Dublin based quartet Åtsch, and the veteran Irish pianist working in Britain, John Donegan with his quintet.
And further afield, you’ll find some stunning new music from Venezuelan composer Edward Simon, from veteran pianist Kenny Barron and an extraordinary historic performance by the great Dizzy Gillespie recorded in 1978 but just issued.
The Hot Box opens the file labelled K! Yes, the great endeavour of trawling the files of piano players has got as far as the letter K this time around, and a bumper file it is too. Not dominated by a single “Big Name”, (J for Jarrett!) but a great representative sample of some of the best pianists around today.
You’ll hear Dave Kikoski, the incredible Geoffrey Keezer, Frank Kimbrough among others from the current crop, and reaching back a bit Roger Kellaway and the late Wynton Kelly. And of course, the K file also contains the much missed pianist from Dublin, the late Noel Kelehan. So tune in and enjoy.
In The Hot Box Episode 29 we celebrate International Jazz Day which is a relatively new affair started back in 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and gain much ground.
This episode features a necessarily small sample of music created by jazz musicians from many different countries, including Ireland, demonstrating the increasingly wide dimension of jazz music today and the role that it plays around the world. Even the first piece played includes musicians from Colombia, Cuba, Canada, USA, Switzerland, Argentina, Greece, France and Portugal, recorded in a big band led by Colombian newcomer Juan Andres Ospina.
You can hear tracks from Francesco Turrisi’s new album “Northern Migrations” as well as Linley Hamilton’s new album “Making Other Arrangements”. On top of that we have tracks from a surprise parcel from the Norwegian Embassy in Dublin and many more international acts.
In The Hot Box Episode 28 we explore Alt Big Bands from the 1920’s onwards some of which might be considered slightly left of field but an amazing line up all the same. You will hear from bands such as Claude Thornhil Band, Billy May & His Orchestra as well as Stan Kenton and Jimmie Lunceford. Just under an hour of Big Band Jazz..
The Hot Box Episode 27 in which we delve into the piano files labelled “J”
It so happens that J is a significant file for the fact that it contains Keith Jarrett, Ahmad Jamal and Hank Jones, three mighty big reputations and among the most popular jazz pianists of all time. It’s easy to be blown away by the sheer volume of material that Jarrett has created in trio, solo and other formats, so we have been highly selective (based on the 35 CDs in the file!).
The “bari” is by no means the largest of Adolph Sax’s family of instruments but the even larger ones look as though they would fit nicely into an oil refinery. The baritone, which is itself quite a hefty instrument, first became a regular element in jazz music when it became the must-have anchor for the lower register harmonies in the big band era, before which it had been something of a novelty. Baritone players today are a select bunch, far outnumbered by their peers who play tenor or alto, although many musicians today like to collect the set, or a good part of it, and double on a range of saxes.
Hot Box 26 is by no means exhaustive but tries to give a quick summary of the sound of the baritone, from Harry Carney, through to the light-toned but immensely popular Gerry Mulligan, to today’s masters such as Gary Smulyan and Claire Daly. Keen observers will spot the Irish contingent of players, both Mulligan (historically), and Claire Daly today who flaunt their Irish roots.
To welcome 2018, The Hot Box presents an all-singing show hosted as usual by former RTE presenter Donald Helme. This is a mix of Irish and American singers, with some special attention paid to the late Jon Hendrix, who also features in Donald’s blog piece recalling Hendrix’s residency in Ashbourne, Co. Meath back in the late 1960s. The show also presents a new singer who hails from the New England area of the US, Allegra Levy, who has, according to those in the know, or at any rate in the publicity business, “taken the jazz world by storm”. She is a real new voice on the scene, and composes much of her own work too.