CD Reviews: Kevin Brady
Among the notable features of the Irish jazz scene in recent years has been the emergence of several outstanding keyboard trios, including the Phil Ware Trio and Organics, both of which are rhythmically anchored by drummer Kevin Brady. Last year, Brady’s own trio rose to prominence with two national tours bracketed around the release of Common Ground, a recording remarkable for its coherence, subtlety, and high standard of musicianship.
These virtues are the product of many factors, including Brady’s smooth combination of power and melodicism, guitarist John Moriarty’s lucid lines and delicate accents, and the assured interplay between Brady and bassist Dave Redmond. But it is the presence of veteran pianist Bill Carrothers that provides musical focus for these strengths and gives the CD its unique voice and clear sense of identity.
Carrothers’ fluency and harmonic invention inform all nine tunes, an inspired and varied set ranging from Charlie Parker and Tiny Grimes’ early bebop classic ‘Red Cross’ to Brady’s clever ballad ‘Goodbye Mr Munch’.
Brady has said that performing and recording with Carrothers has broadened his horizons musically, and certainly the pianist’s spare, intimate style and deep fund of ideas have helped give this recording an impressive inventive breadth. The spirit of Miles Davis hovers over much of the material, especially the cool, exploratory mid-sixties Miles, whose quintet balanced abstraction and blues feeling so effectively. Wayne Shorter did most of the writing for that band, and a Shorter piece from the period, ‘Waterbabies’, is one of the standout tunes on Common Ground, stark and cinematic and highly atmospheric.
Such is the force of Carrothers’ innovative urges that even the standards on this recording, ‘By Myself’ and Jerome Kern’s ‘Yesterdays’, are brooding, inquisitive treatments, full of collective musical scrutiny and steady surprise. ‘Bemsha Swing’ truly does swing, with Brady’s highly creative, melodic drumming driving the tune with humour and panache. Redmond’s ‘Origin’ opens with a forceful statement on bass that resolves into a collective free passage of great taste and delicacy. Moriarty supplies force and colour throughout and delivers sterling solos on ‘Goodbye Mr Munch’ and the Randy Weston waltz ‘Little Niles’.
Carrothers has played a lot with the American drummer Bill Stewart and, like Stewart, Brady has an expansive palette, terrific technique, and an unerring sense of musical structure. With these commanding individual gifts and his close feel for whatever ensemble he is supporting, it is apparent why Brady has become a key part of so many successful small groups. And as the CD is produced by the Livingroom Project Music Collective (www.livingroomproject.com), founded by Brady, we can also add producer to the range of talents he brings to a project. Let’s hope we see many more like Common Ground.
Published on 1 March 2008
Kevin Stevens is is a Dublin-based novelist and writer on history, literature, and jazz.