About this project
While travelling through Ireland some years ago I picked up a paperback copy of James Joyce's Dubliners. That collection of short stories enthralled me and the spine got much wear while I was traipsing through the Irish countryside. In my travels, the woman whom I'd later marry and I happened upon a tiny pub in a tiny town where local musicians would gather and play. We did not set out to see traditional music played by locals, but as it turns out, in Ireland one is never far from similar settings. I recently uncovered some footage I took from that very night. Check it out here:
While we were listening to fairly skilled musicians play through tunes that everyone around us seemed to know I asked myself why I hadn't been familiar with many jazz musicians from Ireland. I could only think of two players off-hand. And then I began to think about the lack of Irish participation in the Western classical tradition as well. I'm of Irish ancestry and I was falling in love with Irish culture so I began to wonder if there was a way I could write some jazz with an Irish flavor. This is how I developed the idea for Bloomsday: A Jazz Portrait of Joyce's Dublin. I centralized my idea around my Irish bloodline, my growing love of Irish literature, and my penchant for heady jazz composition.
I, in no way, intend to write "Irish Jazz". I'm not from Ireland. And I don't intend to write a bunch of jigs and reels so me and my band mates can launch into free-wheeling solos. I have about five or six semi-finished compositions already, and for the most part, the music hardly resembles traditional Irish music. Traditional Irish music elements can be heard in a few passages of the semi-completed compositions, but the influence of traditional melodies and their accompanying lyrics are what I am valuing most. After all, my intent is to compose a musical landscape of my interpretation of the Dublin about which James Joyce wrote.
As an example I will describe the movement, "Araby" influenced by the short story of the same name. The destroyed ideals of love and adventure felt by the young protagonist in "Araby" would hardly be done justice if I composed a swinging version of an Irish jig. Instead, I found a melody I liked from an old folk tune from the southwest of Ireland entitled "The Blackbird". I reworked the beautiful and simple melody and made it my own. Then I tried to capture the confused nature and fateful conclusion of the protagonist's feelings in "Araby" by creating complex harmonies that end somewhat unsettled. The playful double solo between the guitar and the saxophone are to represent the awkward exchange between the young protagonist and the object of his affections. Joyce's ineffably poignant words resonate deep within me and I am trying to express that resonance with music.
As I mentioned, I have a handful of compositions (or movements) that I intend on revamping through the completion of the whole project. I intend to complete at least five more movements. Then the project will be recorded in a studio and released on one of a few record labels that have shown interest in the project, but have not committed to funding it. This project is being composed for five total musicians on the following group of instruments:
- acoustic Guitar; electric Guitar; Irish bouzouki. (THAT'S ME!!)
- tenor saxophone; soprano saxophone; clarinet; bass clarinet; (possibly) oboe.
- piano; accordion; organ.
- violin; vocals; whistling.
- acoustic bass; cello.
While ethnic identity has become more prevalent in jazz the past few years, to my knowledge, jazz and "Irish-ness" is an unexplored region. With your contribution you can help bring to life a truly original idea.
Risks and challenges
One of the main challenges in finishing this project is going to be the documentation of it. Finding the right musicians is going to be a difficult enough task on its own; but I'll have to coordinate rehearsal and studio time with four (or more) other musicians. Then there will be finding time to edit, mix, and master the recording to polish the rougher edges. Then, we'll have to find the project a home. There have been several record labels expressing interest in this project, but nothing is set in stone. There are many challenges ahead for this project, but with your contributions I am confident the outcome will be successful.
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