The modern mainstream Joseph Leighton trio, guitarist Joseph Leighton from Derry with double bassist Jack Kelly from Ballyclare and drummer James Anderson from Portadown, opened the Irish jazz showcase at this year’s Brilliant Corners in Belfast.

Then it was the turn of adventurous singer Sue Rynhart from Dublin who appeared with pianist-percussionist Francesco Turrisi and double bassist Dan Bodwell and whose unique singer-songwriter style touches on konnakol and Kate Bush-like vocal improvisation. From Cork, trombonist Paul Dunlea with his multi-national quintet, pianist Leopoldo Osio, bassist Barry Donohue, tenor saxophonist Ben Castle who now lives in Ireland, and Scottish drummer Alyn Cosker was the easy pick of the night.  Dunlea has a very soft and appealing tone, and a melodic sense reminiscent of Curtis Fuller a little in terms at least of the heritage style the sound and approach lands in, the horn arrangements had a lightly swinging life to them that avoided too much sentimentalism even with the use of an atmospheric mute and the group interplay was full of rhythmic ingenuity courtesy of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s Cosker.

Guitarist Joseph Leighton is a jazz performance student at Trinity Laban in London whose guitar teachers include Mike Outram and Hannes Riepler. His big jazz inspirations he told me are Jesse van Ruller, Peter Bernstein and David Lyttle, speaking before the gig in the nearby MAC at the first ever Irish meet and greet held for the Jazz Promotion Network whose board was convening later in the day the event co-hosted by Moving on Music, the Belfast promoter who runs Brilliant Corners, and the IMC, the leading jazz promoter from Dublin whose festival initiatives have included the award winning 12 Points and experimental Down with Jazz.  Joseph also chatted a little about his neighbourhood jazz club local to Trinity in Greenwich, Oliver’s.  Back home in Derry he plays regularly at Bennigan’s pub run by pianist John Leighton, which is at the heart of the local north west of Northern Ireland jazz scene and which has rapidly built up a more national profile and where local legend Gay McIntyre plays regularly as well as visiting stars including, in a springtime highlight, Kurt Rosenwinkel appearing with Michael Janisch and David Lyttle in trio. SG

Brilliant Corners, named after a Thelonious Monk classic album, has grown considerably since its first running and still happily retains its intimate scale. Acts coming up later this week are Kaja Draksler, Thunderblender, the Elliot Galvin trio, Brian Irvine Ensemble, David Lyttle trio, Jack Kelly trio, and Sons of Kemet whose Irish tour begins in Limerick city tonight. 

Updated and corrected 08/03/18.