the hot box iconThe Hot Box

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 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.

This time around we have a very special Hot Box for you with Al Ryan as guest presenter. Al Ryan is a well-known Irish trumpeter and broadcaster who now lives in the UK. He was a producer and presenter of jazz programmes for RTE and Lyric FM in Eire, covering of all Ireland’s major festivals, notably Cork Jazz, for nine years. He now broadcasts regularly for BBC Radio Oxford, as well as leading his own 17-piece big band in the UK and Ireland.

The Hot Box #010 features new releases from pianist Joey Alexander, Austrian guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel and Japanese trumpeter Takuya Kuroda.

The A-Z of Jazz Piano: this time - Pianists in the key of B

The task of hunting down jazz piano from A to Z is really only just beginning, but B proved to be a most rich seam of artists, and the The Hot Box #9 show may be remarkable for who we had to leave out as much as for those we included.

Hear The Bad Plus (yes, yes a bit of a B cheat) and Count Basie, Kenny Barron, Ray Bryant, Jaki Byard and Dave Brubeck amongst an hour long feast of pianists filed under the letter B. And of course, a celebration of the fine pianist from Dublin, Cian Boylan.

All singing and all-female version of THE HOT BOX this time around, a rich seam of talent in Ireland and set amongst the best in the world. In this hour expect to find award-winning Charanee Wade and Cecile McLorin Salvant, plus Honor Heffernan, Maria Tecce, Mary Coughlan and Liane Carroll.

Vocal performance within jazz can sometimes be “hotly” debated (geddit?) - are you a jazz singer if you don’t scat? Our answer is emphatically yes, it all depends on interpretation, phrasing, harmonisation…….we could go on. Welcome to The Hot Box No 8.

To greet 2017 The Hot Box embarks on a series that features jazz pianists across all styles, countries of origin and eras, spanning most of the hundred years of recorded jazz, and starting with the letter "A", working over time - a long time! - to “Z". The Piano Series will run for once each month.

“A" takes us back to the boogie-woogie of Albert Ammons, to the unique style of the recently departed Mose Allison, up to the present day Lynne Arriale, Monty Alexander and more. Enjoy the letter "A", and keep a look out for the letter B in February.