fri 15/12/2017

CD: Martin Hayes Quartet - The Blue Room | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Martin Hayes Quartet - The Blue Room

CD: Martin Hayes Quartet - The Blue Room

Irish tunes revel in new chamber music settings

Recorded at beautiful Bantry House in the far south-west of Ireland, The Blue Room is the debut of West Clare’s fiddle player extraordinaire Martin Hayes’ new quartet, comprising bass clarinettist Doug Wieseman, viola d’amore player Liz Knowles, and guitarist Dennis Cahill.

It opens in spectacularly tranquil fashion with "The Boy in the Gap", a tune as beautiful as anything Hayes has ever recorded – and given his record with Irish-American supergroup The Gloaming as well as his long association with guitarist Dennis Cahill, that is a high bar indeed, over which his music seems to flow effortlessly, harnessing the spirits of invention and inspiration to explore the very essence of a given composition.

"The Boy in the Gap" begins with a bass clarinet drawing down an air that feels eastern, preceding it the warm underlay of a viola d’amore with its sympathetic strings, before Hayes appears, a simple melody at first, unmistakably Irish, played feather-light on the fiddle, and accompanied by the fine gait of Cahill’s guitar. It sets the table for a feast of traditional Irish tunes recast by the lyrical, minimalist genius of Hayes and co. It’s no wonder he’s been compared to Miles Davis and Steve Reich for the way he extracts the unnecessary and focuses on the essence.

 “We had sketches but nothing was locked down,” he says of making the album. “It kept fluctuating and developing. There was a lot of feeling our way through. If one person shifts something, it can shift for everyone really fast. You end up in a place you didn’t expect.”

The Blue Room is full of such places and spaces. Akin to the The Gloaming’s radical, minimal and lyrical recasting of the Irish tradition, The Blue Room is absolutely essential listening when it comes to the very best of contemporary Irish music. Martin Hayes is at the Barbican with the Brooklyn Rider Quartet on 25 January 2018.

Overleaf: listen to "The Boy in the Gap" 

It's no wonder Martin Hayes has been compared to Miles Davis and Steve Reich

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