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Friday, January 2, 2015

A Year in the Life - Realisation and Renewal

It's funny how life goes sometimes. When you're young and you throw yourself into something like music, everything can seem very simple. Every day you practice and work hard and try and get better, and you do all of this without thought. If all goes well you build your career and earn your living doing this wonderful thing. Then a strange thing can happen, you find yourself doing more and more work that is peripheral to the actual act of playing itself - especially these days with all the distractions of technology social media, and the necessity to be your own publicist/producer/agent/video editor/sound engineer etc. Gradually the amount of time you spend actually playing or composing diminishes, while the anciliary stuff increases. 

Well I've had one of those years - 2014 went by with far too much administration and not enough music. This blog, which is something I'm very interested in - writing about music - got almost no attention at all, and many other musical things were relegated to 'as soon as I can..' roles rather than being primary goals. Well, for my 2015 resolution I'm determined to change this and put music back front and centre again and make whatever changes I have to in order to do that.

So, I've made a start by updating and upgrading my website, which you can see here - there is lots of new stuff there, I think it's more streamlined and I'll be working on it to improve it and keep it updated, so please do check it out now and then if you feel like it.

As part of what I consider my re-engagement with the core of what I should be doing, I've decided to do some one-to-one private teaching again. I haven't done this for a long time and it's something I enjoy. Up to this point my work at the school I teach at has eaten up all my teaching time, however I'm changing a few things so that I can teach people privately again. I'll be doing it on Skype as well as in Dublin, so I can work with people internationally as well as at home. There are more details here if anyone reading this is interested. If you have direct questions about getting lessons, contact me at

Despite it being a challenging time, this past year also had many musical highlights; a reunion with the Guilfoyle/Nielsen trio, gigs with two great American musicians John O Gallagher and Jeff Williams, gigs with the legendary Bob Gullotti and Bruce Saunders, performing my Joycean-inspired suite ‘Counterparts’, at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris, performing and recording with a multinational band of Lupa Santiago, Michael Buckley, Goncalo Marques and Anders Vestergard in Lisbon, and performing and teaching in South Africa.

South Africa

(Kesivan Naidoo)

This latter experience was very inspiring – for the first time I got to get a good sense of the breadth and depth of South African jazz. They really have their own thing down there, it’s not European or American, though it shows influences from both – it really has its own identity, and the vibe the music is played with is just fantastic. I had a great time playing with two wonderful musicians in particular, drummer Kesivan Naidoo and the pianist Kyle Shepherd, and I hope to do that again as soon as possible! Also while there I made the aquaintance of other great musicians such as Mike Del Ferro and Ganesh Geymeier. As I said, a very inspiring time.

New Recording
The year began with something very inspiring too – a recording of my own compositions made in Systems Two in New York with a great band consisting of Dave Binney on saxophones, Tom Rainey on drums and my son Chris on guitar. It turned out really well and I was very happy with it, but with the year that I’ve had, I’ve been slow to do anything with it. Well this is going to change, and I’m going to release this in the the first three months of the new year. Here’s a little teaser......

I’m determined to make this year more musicially productive than last, and the first half of 2015 promises to be very musically rewarding. Next week I go to New York to take part in the 7th International Rhythm Studies Association meeting. This brings together high level practitioners in the world of rhythm in improvised music together for three days of playing and hanging, and discussing the latest developments on the rhythmic scene. This is the first time in NY and it looks really exciting with Dave Liebman, Donny McCaslin, Johannes Weidenmuller, Jen Shyu and Miles Okazaki among the participants. Here’s a video from the Dublin meeting a few years ago, which gives an idea of what goes on at these gatherings.

 (Eric Ineke)

In late January I’ll be taking up residence for a month at the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. I’ll be there to write some music and play some music. I’ll be playing ‘Counterparts’ again, travelling to Den Haag to play with two great masters Eric Ineke and John Ruocco and do some teaching at the Royal Conservatory there, and debuting new piano trio music with the very talented young Swiss pianist Marie Kruttli and my colleage in ‘Counterparts’, Christophe Lavergne. I’ll also be doing some teaching at the Paris Conservatoire while I’m there.

Full details of these and more dates are on my website here.

Later in the year I'll be returning to South Africa to perform again, and will also be taking part in a concert with two of the most outstanding contemporary improvising musicians on the scene today - Christy Doran and Gerry Hemingway - full dates will be on the website soon.

On the composition front I did manage to get some pieces written, including a piano piece dedicated to my mother, a trio piece for the Guilfoyle/Nielsen Trio and I'm very happy to say that in the next year I will be working on a piece for chamber orchestra, soprano saxophone and piano, written to celebrate the 70th birthdays of two of the greatest contemporary jazz musicians, Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach.

More on that as it develops, for now I want to wish all the readers of this blog a very happy and prosperous 2015, and I look forward to writing much more on this blog this year than I did last year, and I hope you'll find it interesting. Please feel free to comment!

I'll leave you with this piece from the Guilfoyle/Nielsen Trio's reunion concert. Hope you enjoy it!

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