2015 Festival

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Dhafer Youssef

Dhafer Youssef

“I was doing my own music, bringing alive the colours in my soul”.

Sligo Jazz Project celebrates ten years this year by opening its festival with a rising star of the European world music scene, Dhafer Youssef, for a concert that illustrates the limitless musical borders of jazz. Youssef plays the oud, a pear-shaped string instrument with distinctive soft tones. Coupled with his evocative vocals and an outstanding band, this promises to be a rich musical experience. Dhafer Youssef was born in Tunisia and discovered his potential as a singer from his time as a muezzin. He later moved to Austria to study in Vienna ,which opened up new musical paths including jazz. He has been involved in diverse musical projects, starred with Herbie Hancock, Annie Lennox, Al Jarreau and Wayne Shorter at this year’s International Jazz Day concert in Paris, has performed on the soundtrack of The Amazing Spiderman and has collaborated with Nguyen Lê, Jon Hassell and Nils Peter Molvaer, straddling both modern jazz and world music genres with aplomb. Youssef brings an eclectic and extremely talented international line up to the Hawk’s Well Theatre on July 21. Pianist, Kristjan Randalu, originally from Estonia, has performed with Dave Liebman, Ari Hoenig, Nguyên Lê. British bassist Phil Donkin, now living in Germany, has played with Kenny Wheeler, John Abercombie and Kurt Rosenwinkel. Hungarian drummer Ferenc Nemeth has performed on many albums and been a sideman for Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Joshua Redman.

Dhafer Youssef – Oud, Vocal
Kristjan Randalu – Piano
Phil Donkin – Double Bass
Ferenc Nemeth- Drums


FESTIVAL LAUNCH at Hargadons and Other Events

4:30pm: HARGADONS PUB – Sligo Jazz Festival Launch – Ciaran Wilde and Friends FREE – To launch our festival, why not catch one of Ireland’s greatest musicians, leader of the Dublin City Jazz Orchestra, saxophonist Ciaran Wilde, in an intimate and informal session with others from Sligo Jazz Project’s stellar 2015 Summer School Faculty. Fine food available.
6pm: THE MODEL Sligo Jazz Project Jam Session with a host of Irish and International Talent FREE Fine food available.
8pm: HAWKS WELL THEATRE – Dhafer Youssef Birds Requiem Quartet – €30/25 – Oud master and extraordinary vocalist from Tunisia, one of the great stars of world music today = Unmissable! See here for more details
10pm: The Mill Bar, Riverside Hotel: Sligo Jazz Project Jam Session with a host of Irish and International Talent FREE

Dhafer Youssef

The Impossible Gentlemen

“I was doing my own music, bringing alive the colours in my soul”.

Gwilym Simcock - piano
Mike Walker - guitar
Steve Rodby - double bass
Adam Nussbaum - drums
For the first time, Sligo Jazz Project will have a band-in-residence at its annual summer school and festival. The Impossible Gentlemen is a veritable supergroup comprising members from UK and USA, all well known modern jazz performers.
“a four way marriage made in heaven” - The Jazz Breakfast
“They ooze musical authority” - The Arts Desk
“as perfect an example of the balance between team and individuals as I can remember hearing” - The Jazz Breakfast
“one of the best combos on the planet” - Toledo Blade USA
“The upper echelon of the jazz world is a place of constantly shifting alliances. But even by those standards, the Impossible Gentlemen is a rare and fabulous group of talents” - The Times



Dublin City Jazz Orchestra with special guest Ernie Watts

Dublin City Jazz Orchestra return to Sligo for the third time in SJP’s ten year history. This time their special guest is Ernie Watts, one of the most versatile and prolific saxophone players in music. Ireland’s premier big band, Dublin City Jazz Orchestra is more than a large ensemble. It invariably contains Ireland’s finest soloists too, often featuring amongst others, orchestra leader Ciaran Wilde, Brendan Doyle, Nick Roth and Derek O’Connor on saxophones, Danny Healy, Linley Hamilton on trumpets, guitarist Hugh Buckley, trombonists Carl Ronan and Paul Dunlea, amongst many others.


“He is one of the greatest living tenor saxophonists, at the top of his game.”
Ian Patterson / All About JazzTwo-time Grammy Award winner Ernie Watts is one of the most versatile and prolific saxophone players in music. It has been more than fifty years since he first picked up a saxophone, and from age sixteen on he has been playing professionally, initially while still attending school. Watts has been featured on over 500 recordings by artists ranging from Cannonball Adderley to Frank Zappa, always exhibiting his unforgettable trademark sound.After 15 albums as a leader, for a variety of labels large and small, Watts started Flying Dolphin Records in 2004, in partnership with his wife Patricia. Flying Dolphin (distributed by City Hall Records in the US and Laika Records in Germany) is a new chapter for the artist’s creative expression. “Through my years of studio work, touring, and recording,” he says, “I’ve played in every kind of musical setting. I’ve reached a place in my life where I need to make music on my terms. Starting my own label provided me with a new sense of freedom.” The most recent way this freedom is expressed is through Flying Dolphin’s newest release, Oasis (2011). For Ernie Watts, music has been an oasis his whole life, an oasis both wide and deep. This album contains music from many sources; three compositions from Watts, one each from Christof Saenger and Heinrich Koebberling of the Ernie Watts Quartet, “Shaw Nuff,” a bebop classic from Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, one ballad from Johnny Mandel and another from Joe Sample. Lennon/McCartney’s “Blackbird” appears, and Ernie’s major inspiration John Coltrane is represented by “Crescent.”
Other releases in the Flying Dolphin catalog include Four plus Four (2009), a studio project with both the US and European Ernie Watts Quartets, recorded in Los Angeles and Cologne, Germany, including “Through My Window,” a Watts original written to showcase both quartets together. To The Point (2007) was made live with the Ernie Watts Quartet at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles. Analog Man (2006) is winner of the Independent Music Award for Best Jazz Album of 2007, with his European Quartet, touring together since 1999. Spirit Song (2005) was Watts’ first studio recording as a leader since the release of Classic Moods (JVC) in 1999. Watts used a handmade cedar Spirit Flute to introduce the title track, creating the haunting folk melody which is then reprised on tenor. Flying Dolphin’s first release ALIVE (2004) was recorded live at the Backstage in Fulda, Germany. The chance to hear Watts at immediate heat in the midst of his own music had only been available before to his concert audiences. To The Point and ALIVE both vividly capture that live experience, once with each quartet.
Watts started playing saxophone at age 13 in Wilmington, Delaware. He went with a friend who was joining the local school music program, and found himself carrying home an instrument too. “I was a self-starter; no one ever had to tell me to practice,” remembers Watts. His discipline combined with natural talent began to shape his life. He won a scholarship to the Wilmington Music School where he studied classical music and technique. Though they had no jazz program, his mother provided the spark by giving him his own record player plus a record club membership, for Christmas. That first record club promotional selection turned out to be the brand-new Miles Davis album Kind of Blue. “When I first heard John Coltrane play, it was like someone put my hand into a light socket,” Watts says. He started to learn jazz by ear, often falling asleep at night listening to a stack of Coltrane records. Although he would enroll briefly at West Chester University in music education, he soon won a Downbeat Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, renowned for jazz.
When Gene Quill quit Buddy Rich’s Big Band in Boston, trombonist Phil Wilson (a professor at Berklee), was asked to recommend a student as temporary replacement. A young Ernie Watts was referred, and left Berklee for that important spot. The “student temporary” stayed with Rich from 1966-1968 and toured the world, also recording two albums with the band—Big Swing Face and The New One. Ernie says now, “I guess I got the job,” and laughs.
Next, Watts moved to Los Angeles and began working in the big bands of Gerald Wilson and Oliver Nelson. With the Nelson band, Watts visited Africa on a U.S. State Department tour in 1969. They played in Chad, Niger, Mali, Senegal, and the Republic of the Congo, which included the opportunity to meet and jam with the local African musicians. Remembering the experience, Watts recalls Africa as “a timeless land.” “It was amazing to play a government-sponsored concert in the evening, then take a walk the next morning and see a camel caravan coming in from the desert, laden with giant salt blocks. That had been happening for thousands of years! Walking out into the desert at night, I felt the tremendous quiet there, something I had never experienced before, or since.” It was also with Oliver Nelson that Watts had the occasion to record with the legendary Thelonious Monk on Monk’s Blues (Columbia).
During the 1970s and ’80s, Watts was immersed in the busy production scene of Los Angeles. His signature sound was heard on countless TV shows and movie scores, almost all the early West Coast Motown sessions, and with pop stars such as Aretha Franklin and Steely Dan. Though the pop music genre placed narrow confines on his performance, the studio sessions allowed Watts the chance to constantly hone and refine his tone. After years in the studios, Watts’ passion for acoustic jazz never left him. At the end of a long day of sessions, he could frequently be heard playing fiery jazz in late-night clubs around Los Angeles.
In 1983, the film composer Michel Colombier wrote an orchestral piece entitled “Nightbird” for Watts. At the work’s inaugural performance at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Charlie Haden came backstage to introduce himself. The meeting led to Watts performing with Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra and to tours with Pat Metheny’s Special Quartet which included Haden.
Watts’ touring with Metheny’s group in the late 1980s was a turning point for him. “The serious energy of Pat’s music inspired me to choose work at this level of performance. Every night I listened to and rejoiced in the power I was feeling in the music.” Watts’ charter membership in Haden’s critically-acclaimed Quartet West, with whom he has toured and recorded for twenty-five years, his work for the audiophile Japanese label JVC Music and his growing catalog of original music for Flying Dolphin continue to express his joy in the power of jazz.
His four recordings for JVC Music are some of the finest of his extensive career. For these projects, he surrounded himself with several of his favorite players; Jack DeJohnette, Arturo Sandoval, Kenny Barron, Mulgrew Miller, Eddie Gomez, Jimmy Cobb and Marc Whitfield. The music encompassed both jazz classics and new pieces by Watts. Between his stint with JVC and starting his own label Flying Dolphin, Watts recorded Reflections with Los Angeles pianist Ron Feuer, a 2003 saxophone/piano duet project of lush ballads. He also recorded duet CDs Blue Topaz and Pa Chuly with acclaimed German pianist (and member of his European quartet) Christof Saenger for Laika Records.
Watts’ eclectic mix of career activities has included work with vocalist Kurt Elling in a tribute to Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, which won Elling his first Grammy Award, and concerts with the WDR Big Band Cologne in Germany, followed by the National Radio Band of Slovenia, which played two of his compositions arranged for Watts by the celebrated Michael Abene. He has performed in Jazz at the Kennedy Center for Billy Taylor and has appeared in Australia with Billy Cobham and orchestra.
A typical year finds him touring Europe with his own European Quartet in spring and fall, in Asia as a featured guest artist with long-time collaborator and friend, pianist Jeremy Monteiro, and performing at summer festivals throughout North America and Europe. Watts is also touring with Doc Severinsen’s recently-renewed big band as featured soloist each year.
He gives back to the music by conducting clinics and master classes, both on the student and professional level, and soon will release his first educational video A Melodic Approach to Improvisation on Quantum Leap Ltd. Watts has also compiled a collection of orchestral arrangements for guest soloist appearances with symphonies, most recently with the National Symphony of Costa Rica. Finally, there is the occasional “hometown gig” with the Ernie Watts Quartet in California, where he is still based.
Summing it all up, Watts describes his ongoing journey. “I see music as the common bond having potential to bring all people together in peace and harmony. All things in the physical world have vibration; the music I choose to play is the energy vibration that touches a common bond in people. I believe that music is God singing through us, an energy to be used for good.”


Liane Carroll and Friends

Liane Carroll, piano, voc. With Chuck Rainey and other surprise guests from Sligo Jazz Project’s stellar 2015 faculty. Adm €18/15/€9
Sligo Jazz Project is proud to welcome one of the UK’s finest jazz performers as vocal tutor and performer at this year’s 10th anniversary event. Equally accomplished on piano and voice, Liane Carroll has won countless awards, including BBC Jazz Awards and Parliamentary awards. On this very special evening Liane will be performing solo and joined by several surprise guests from SJP’s stellar 2015 faculty.

all stars

Sligo Jazz Project All-Stars

Each year our summer school faculty grows stronger and stronger, each year our festival gains strength. At SJP we pride ourselves on a varied festival programme, packed full of one-off events such as this, the musical climax of the week for many, the SJP All Stars concert. This assembly of musicians has been hand picked by SJP to educate, inspire and entertain, not just our summer school participants, but also the general public and music lovers everywhere, for a whole week in Sligo and this night is where they all get to shine, individually and collectively.
Lead by sax supremo Ernie Watts and featuring our stellar 2015 faculty, the SJP All Stars concert is always a highlight of the week various musicians in duo, trio, small and large ensemble formats for an enthralling and uplifting evening’s music.


Ernie Watts, Cathal Roche Ciaran Wilde and Matthew Halpin, saxophones
Liane Carroll, voice/piano, Veronika Morscher, voice
Gwilym Simcock & Brian Priestley, piano
Chuck Rainey, electric bass
Steve Rodby & John Goldsby, double bass
Adam Nussbaum, Steven Davis David Lyttle and Paul Clarvis, drums & percussion
Mike Walker and Mike Nielsen, guitar
Linley Hamilton, trumpet

all stars

Sunday July 26 Events

1pm Sligo Park Hotel FREE – SJP BIG BASH – Featuring the entire 2015 summer school – a marathon concert of participants’ ensembles, always the highlight of the week for all concerned, and for the huge audience that it attracts! Fine Food available.
1pm Mill Bar, Riverside Hotel FREE - Sinead Conway Quartet. Fine food available.
1pm Austies, Rosses Point, FREE - The Jazz Ladds. Fine food available.
6pm The Mill Bar, Riverside Hotel FREE – Sligo Jazz Project Jam Session with a host of Irish and International Talent. Fine food available.
9pm 5th on TEELING €5 – SJP WRAP PARTY with DeLorean Suite featuring Chuck Rainey Plus Sligo Jazz Project Jam Session with a host of Irish and International talent!