I first heard of Eddie Lee almost 14 years ago. When I mentioned to my piano teacher in music college that I was from Sligo, he told me I had to meet him. ‘What a bass player’ were his words. Less than 14 days ago a colleague asked me who was going to be on bass for an upcoming gig we’re doing. When I mentioned it was Eddie, his face lit up and he expressed his delight saying ‘if Eddie Lee can’t play it, it’s not worth playing’! Eddie Lee is getting a lot of love and praise at the moment, and rightly so. Last week was another hugely successful Sligo Jazz Festival, the details of which have been covered extensively in these pages and elsewhere. He has created something significant, something lasting, and something that makes our town a better place in which to live. However for the other 51 weeks of the year Eddie is a bass player,

read more Eddie

When the sun comes out…

Compared to many other parts of the world, we are starved of sun in Sligo. Hence when it does come out, especially for the first time each year, everyone rushes to the coastal villages of Strandhill, Enniscrone and Rosses Point to laze on the beaches, swim in the sea, and generally hang out to soak up the summer vibes. Of course the businesses in each village love when the sun comes out, as the footfall increases hugely, people are in spending form, and business booms as a result. However it can be all too fleeting, especially in sun-starved Sligo, and hence it’s worth the time of these businesses to work hard in order attract people all year around, not just when the sun comes out. It’s better to be someone known for reliability, good service, consistent excellence, and to be sought out all year round, rather than waiting for the few weeks each year where circumstances bring people to you.

The Goodbye Look

This week I learned about detail, manners, excellency and lots of harmony. I’ll talk about all that again, but for now here’s goodbye to Sligo Jazz 2018 with Liane Carroll and the Sligo Jazz Big Band performing Donald Fagen’s The Goodbye Look.

Conversations about music

One of the great things about hanging around musicians and music students all week is that you get to have all sorts of interesting conversations and as a result can see things from new perspectives. Below are some examples. One was with a father whose son wants to go to jazz school, trying to figure out if it was the right move for him. One was about a guitarist who has been to jazz school, some of the best in fact. He has done everything ‘right’ – practiced hard, and knows his craft really well. He is an introvert, quite shy, and is currently struggling to get gigs that challenge and satisfy him creatively. And one was about a teacher I had who told me that you would get more gigs if you were a good musician and easy to get along with than if you were an amazing musician but lacked in social skills. The guitarist has done what

read more Conversations about music

Winning (Part 2)

It’s great to be writing for the second Friday in a row about winning. Last night I was in the band for Malcolm Edmonstone‘s big band arrangement of Donald Fagen’s 1982 album The Nightfly. It was Thursday night’s feature in this week’s Sligo Jazz Festival, and Eddie Lee, the chief, went all out to fill the stage with an amazing collection of musicians. Drums, percussion, 3 bass players (!), guitar, piano, keyboards, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, 5 saxophones, 4 singers. People who had played and recorded with household names. People who are household names in the jazz world themselves. From the moment the crowd applauded on hearing the opening horn riff on I.G.Y. you knew it was going to be one of those nights. They knew they were in for an exceptional evening, and so did we. There were smiles everywhere, on and off stage, people sharing in the feeling of being part of something special. And so we all left

read more Winning (Part 2)

Star quality

A friend of mine once gave me some candid advice when I started to consider working in the music industry as a career. He told me (as only a friend can) that I didn’t have the requisite star quality to make it. ‘Look at Beyonce’, he said. ‘She has star quality. You – you’re too normal’. Star quality. It’s a strange phrase. One person’s star may be another person’s regular Joe. What makes someone have star quality? I believe I saw it up close yesterday. Joe Dart was in town at the Sligo Jazz Festival for a bass masterclass and for a gig with one of his bands – The Olllam. I had seen him gig before when he was ‘one of the band’, but here for the first time, he was out front and centre. Now this guy doesn’t have a website, a recording in his own name, or even a dedicated Wikipedia page, but there’s no doubt in

read more Star quality


I wrote about ego here before. How Rufus Reid told us 11 years ago to ‘leave it on the shelf’, and about the widely-held belief that the true masters have no ego. This week I’m in the presence of people who are living proof of this. Pictured above are (l-r) Henrik Linder, Liane Carroll and Federico Malaman, all world jazz superstars, all leading by example in making the Sligo Jazz Festival a fun and learning experience for students, other musicians and audiences alike. Liane was part of last night’s gig, and lived up to Linley Hamilton’s description of her as the world’s best vocalist when she sang and accompanied herself on the piano for a version of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s Ol’ Man River. However what stood out on the gig for me (apart from the amazing musicianship) was the teamwork. There were 8 top class musicians on stage, each seemingly committed to making the gig as good as

read more Liane


I had dinner with a bunch of jazz musicians last night. The conversation went around usual topics – how work was, what gigs you were playing, opinions on various jazz albums/musicians. You’ll notice in company like this that the legends of jazz are referred to by just their Christian names. Miles, Elvin, Wes, Wynton, Wayne. One Irishman gets that treatment – Louis Stewart, or Louis. The Dublin guitarist regularly inhabited that elite company, and is respected and loved at home and abroad, almost as much for his wit as his music. Stories of Louis’ one-liners were flying around – how on his deathbed when asked by his family if he would like to be buried or cremated he said ‘surprise me’. How before a show one time when a fellow bandmate said to have a good gig, Louis replied – ‘don’t tell me what to do’. However, if I was having dinner with a different group of people and spoke

read more Louis

CPD for musicians

There is a danger when living in a small town, or even in a not so small one – that you forget how big a world it is out there, and how many cultures, personalities and systems there are from which to learn. Thankfully – once every year the world (of jazz) comes to Sligo and we, along with the hundreds of visitors who arrive for the week, get to play with, chat to and learn from some of the world’s best jazz musicians. Unlike other professions, there is no body which awards CPD points to musicians for attending certain courses or seminars. If there was, I imagine they would award maximum points for this week. I’m really looking forward to seeing what I come away with this time. The great Eddie Lee is the man responsible for the wonderful Sligo Jazz Festival, and this picture was taken on the last night of last year’s successful instalment. PS if you

read more CPD for musicians

Ahppy Byrthdai!

I saw a bunch of dancers sing Happy Birthday off the cuff the other night. It was fascinating to watch the different ways they moved their bodies to convey the message of the song. If you hear a bunch of singers sing Happy Birthday it’s always about how many harmonies they can put in. Instrumentalists playing it will try and play interesting chords under the tune and improvise in new ways around the melody lines. And it always sounds great! But it’s precisely because people know it so well that they can have such fun with it. The better you know a song – the easier it is to improvise over it and the more fun you can have expressing yourself in your own individual way. It’s the same with a speech, a presentation or any type of performance. If you want to deliver something to the best of your ability, get to know it as well as you know

read more Ahppy Byrthdai!