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 “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.
In this episode of The Hot Box we have 80 minutes of the best of Big Band music culled from the post-bebop era, from the best in Europe as well as the USA. You will hear from Clare Fischer, Joe Roccisano, Christian McBride Big Band and John Beasley’s Monk-estra. On the Irish front we have a track from the Hot House Big Band featuring Mark Wilde on saxophone and Julien Colarossi on guitar.
In the epic series of alphabetical pianists started early in 2017 we reached the letter H, in Hot Box 21, only to find such a plethora of riches that they spilled over the confines of a single Box. As luck would have it, the letter I has very few incumbents so we are able, in Hot Box 23 to play the missing H’s - or at least most of them - and both the I’s. And speaking of the letter I, we couldn’t resist the temptation to play a very early “Capetown jazz” piece from the South African star Abdullah Ibrahim that runs a little over 15 minutes!
In this episode of The Hot Box we check out some new material from Lizz Wright, Sean Jones, Christian McBride’s Big Band, Julian Colarossi and John Keogh, The Carole Nelson Trio and the remarkable Cecile McLorin-Salvant. All that, and we join the celebrations for Jazz on the Terrace, that unique entity in the world of jazz, a promoter and presenter that has prospered for 35 years. Episode 22 is the most chilled Hot Box yet.
Once more we delve into the files to find pianists filed in alphabetical order. In some recent forays it may have been difficult to fill the show, not so with the Letter H. In fact there are so many important piano players in this file we can’t fit them all into The Hot Box episode 21!
In Hot Box Episode 20 we pay homage to two jazz festivals that present contrasting pleasures to jazz fans over the October public holiday weekend in Ireland. The one celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2017 and is recognised worldwide as one of the major jazz-focussed events in the calendar, the other remains something of a secret, but gaining in its reach and appeal each year.