Jazz Festival Cork
By Colette Sheriden
Celebrating 25 years as the biggest event on the Irish music and social calendar, this year's Guinness Cork Jazz Festival takes place on October 25th - 28th. It will feature 1,000 musicians and some 40,000 visitors are expected to visit the city as it swings, non-stop, for four days. Appropriately hailed 'the biggest jazz party in the world', the sponsors and the festival organizers are planning to pop the cork in style for the silver jubilee celebrations. All the big names in jazz have played in Cork including Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Buddy Rich, Gerry Mulligan, Ceorge Shearing, Dizzie Gillespie, Cleo Laine, Dave Brubeck, Teddy Wilson, BB King the list goes on.
This year's festival line up includes John Scofield, Gonzalo, Kenny Wheeler, Phil Robson, Jason Moran, the Geoff Eales Trio, Tarus Mateen, Waits, the Alan Skidmore Quintet, Damon Brown, Peter Appleyard again, the list goes on and other big names have yet to be confirmed.
All the usual Dixie, big band, swing, blues and hip-hop outfits have sailed under the jazz flag of convenience in the past, ensuring some unique late nightiearly morning jam sessions. However, there is so much music on offer that you simply won't be able to catch everything. With main concert venues such as the Everyman Palace Theatre, the Cork Opera House and the Guinness Festival Club at the Cresham Metropole hotel, featuring international musicians on six stages, Cork is awash with fun-loving festival goers for the Irish Bank Holiday weekend.
The 1,000 musicians are spread out among the 40-odd pubs on the Guinness Jazz (90% free entry). The train is loosely based on the legendary New Orleans tradition where patrons can stroll from venue to venue sampling the music and sipping a pint of the black stuff.
Pat Horgan, chairman of the Cork Jazz Festival commitee is not boasting when he says that the festival is one of the top festivals in Europe. It is used as a successful model for other sponsored festivals. The whole city lights up for this event which is even reflected in the Kino Cinema which shows jazz themed films for the duration of the festival. The Junior Chamber of Commerce also stage an outdoor festival parade. This year, the US Air Force Band in Europe will be making an appearance to make up for the disappointment of the cancellation of the US Navy Six Fleet Band last year, shortly after September Ilth. A large American contingent descends on Cork for the fes rival, staying for a week and incorporat ing jazz with visits to golf clubs such as Kinsale and Blarney.
"What continues to fascinate us is the fact that both young and old manage to enjoy the same music," says Pat who also points out that the festival is worth over 12 million Euros to the city.
1978 was the year of the first Cork Jazz Festival. It was Pearse Harvey, ajazz buff and jazz columnist who suggested the idea of the festival to Ray Fitzgerald and Jim Mountjoy who was marketing manager of the Metropole Hotel at the time. Players Wills sponsored the event to the tune of 5,000. Brochures were out eight days before that inaugural festival. Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, who played the Opera House, received several curtain calls and a standing ovation with patrons literally dancing in the aisles! On the down side, Ken Colyer failed to make his guest appearance on the Monday night - due to the overwhelming Cork hospitality! Admission to the Metropole Hotel was E1.50. Artists who played at the first festival included Monty Sunshine, Annie Ross, Betty Smith, Harry South, Jazz Coasters, George Chisholm, Wild Bill Davison, Ronnie Scott and Louis Stewart.
The festival's status was confirmed by the quality of artists attracted in its second year and by the RTE decision to televise the main concerts. Other indications of its success were the attempts made in various quarters to get Players to move the festival to Dublin, on the basis that it should be in the capital. Such moves were opposed. It is the intimacy of Cork city that is one of the key factors in the suc cess of the festival. In 1981, Players decided to withdraw from being sponsors as they had other commitments. Guinness were approached and the harmonious relationship between Ireland's favorite drink and the festival was established.