Ronan Guilfoyle’s HANDS | Review

 Ronan Guilfoyle’s HANDS | Review

Black Box, Belfast • Wednesday 08 March 2017

Brilliant Corners Festival • By Stephen McGurk / Photography: Michael Barbour

Tea-lights burn on white tables with shadows crowded around their glasses of wine, and while the bumble of conversation closed to a sigh, fresh ears ached for sound in the darkness. The quartet, led by bassist Ronan Guilfoyle, nonchalantly approached the stage of The Black Box as part of the fifth year of the Brilliant Corners Festival.

HANDS is the creation of Guilfoyle, an album he recorded in New York City with Dave Binney (Saxophone) , Tom Rainey (Drums) and his son, Chris Guilfoyle (Guitar), who are all on-stage with him tonight.

The immediate collective understanding and confidence in each other’s playing is recognisable and manifested in a series of hidden nods and winks across the stage when changes were afoot. The compositions being played also leave room for improvisation and creativity, along with a structure that maintains a flow to the music. The music throws around inside the ears, letting the crowd drift into their own head-space, then pins you back to the room as the quartet snap into a well-rehearsed set-piece.


The set-list for The Brilliant Corners show contains some extended form jazz pieces in ‘Close Call’ and the title track HANDS, alongside tunes with a more solid groove in ‘Telemachus’ (a song formed with thanks to James Joyce) and In The Apple, the song with which they finish the first half of their set.

On In The Apple, a tribute to Charlie Parker and his influences, you can hear the New York style blow through in Binney’s alto-sax playing. His knuckles and fingers move mechanically as though part of the key-rod’s themselves and he rises up onto pointed toenails to squeeze the last bit of air from his body when hitting the high notes.

The technicality of all players, if not already apparent, is nailed home with their finishing song ‘Nod’. Each player takes their solo and begins demonstrating exactly what type of noises they can make their instruments perform. The bass-guitar runs that Ronan Guilfoyle conjures are filled with counter-points and riffs revealing extraordinary talent and the full capabilities of both the instrument and player. As Chris Guilfoyle then finished his rapturous guitar solo to attentive applause, he looked across to his father and they exchanged a knowing grin while Rainey surged into his frenetic and skilful drum solo.


There were groans of satisfaction emanating from the knowledgeable crowd in attendance as the song came to a sharp stop and more applause broke out. The crowd bared the utmost respect for the musicians throughout the show and dealt out appreciation at all the appropriate parts.

Moving On Music are now in their fifth year of curating the Brilliant Corners Festival and long may it continue.

HANDS is available to listen to and buy from www.ronanguilfoyle.com

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