ALAN KELLY REVIEWS
If you didn't know Alan Kelly and
you put this CD on, you'd be greted by a first track that is an international,
jazzy, funky number and sounds a bit French. However, this young man is
also a genius of trad Irish. Track 2 is brilliantly 'session' stuff, composed
by Alan himself and full of Irish fiddle, bodhran and well, yes, a mean
bit of accordion tossed in by 'yer man himself'.
"Piano accordionist Alan Kelly brought three of his friends to the
Festival Folk Club last night, and ended up making a lot more. The four
musicians from four different counties gave the happy Friday night audience
a session to remember.
Alan Kelly's 1996 debut, Out of the Blue, was aptly titled. The piano accordion suddenly burst into life with Kelly's innovative playing. He skillfully created an album which was brimming with appeal, emotion, gusto and color and a flowing, loose style.
Mosaic is a change, not so much in material as in interpretation. These 11 tracks are from a variety of sources, mainly traditional Irish tunes, with some from Scotland, and a handful of others composed by Kelly, album producer Arty McGlynn, and Liz Carroll. The difference is, creative juices are allowed to run free when it comes to arrangements.
"Eva's Reel," the opening track, is a rolling accordion-led reel, with a guitar accompaniment highlighting the melody and a bass punctuating the rhythm. What really sets the tune apart is the fruity Hammond organ's chording, along with the trumpet and sax which sweep around the melody, and the light, unobtrusive drumming.
McGlynn really comes into his own on the following slip jigs with his delightful airy accompaniment on the first tune and real push on the second. Similarly, the keyboards provide a strong majestic bed to begin with, but take on more of an aggressive nature at the change. The turnover in tunes is enhanced by the introduction of fiddle playing melody along with accordion. The backing throbs with unexpected chord sequences and the added sound of trumpet.
New elements are introduced on each track. For example, "Salamanca Samba," as the title suggests, brings in South American themes. Kelly sits back at one point and lets sax take a solo, but for the most part, he is there leading the ensemble through this Irish-Brazilian hybrid written by McGlynn. Guitar, bass and percussion drive the melody while fiddle, trumpet and sax accent the chorus lines.
Throughout the album, Kelly explores the possibilities different styles offer and succeeds where many have fallen in the past. A charming strathspey, full fledged Irish reels and salsa are all deftly handled with the understanding of someone who knows and loves the music.
And accompanying him throughout is McGlynn along with a dozen others playing instruments ranging from flute and fiddle to guitar and bass to trumpet and saxophone as well as piano and percussion. And with that instrumentation, the possibilities are endless. Kelly is aware of that and takes full advantage.
Crossover albums do not always work, but this one does possibly because Kelly never loses touch with his roots. For each swing or slide he introduces from another genre, there is something from his own background to give foundation. The sweeping new age keyboards on the air "Leaving Haines" are perfectly offset by the orthodox approach of the accordion. The exotic rhythm of the bongos on "Micho Russell's Reel" blend with straight traditional combination of accordion and flute. The jazz-styled accompaniment of "Hanley's Tweed" only emphasizes Kelly's Irishness.
And along with Kelly, much credit must go to Arty McGlynn, whose playing is impeccable, compositions appealing and production spot on. He's the perfect foil for Kelly. This album shows the great understanding and sympathy the two have for each other, and promises much for future collaborations.
Perhaps the highlight comes at the end of the album with Flowers of the Forest, a Finnish tune well assimilated into the Irish repertoire. I've not heard it done this way before. And, like with the album as a whole, the only thing to do as it ends is press the repeat button. -
Jamie O'Brien - rootsworld.com
Currently Trad's hottest ticket, Alan Kelly's live show has been hailed as "a brilliantly talented, effortless and exuberant performance" by The Irish Times, while New York's Irish Voice has called the man himself "in league with the best piano accordionists in the world". Such lavish praise is not misplaced, certainly on the evidence of his second album, Mosaic, where he displays a dexterity and an understanding of the music as well as his instrument. It is without doubt one of the best Irish releases of recent times.
Produced by Arty McGlynn, the album reveals a seemingly playful, experimental approach to Irish music. Indeed, the two McGlynn compositions on the record indicate that here is a fruitful partnership in the making. Most notably of these, Salamanca Samba is truly a joy. With the South American rhythms and Mike Nolan's trumpet, this up-tempo number really gets the feet tappin'. Recent years have seen so many explorations in Irish music, mixing and matching with styles and genres from all over, sometimes with inconclusive results. The South American material really works though, and you just can't help imagining the band wearing moustaches, flowery shirts and sombreros.
The album starts off, however, in a fanfare of cinematic jazz, with Eva's Reel. Written by Kelly himself, it shows not just what a good writer he is, but the breadth of his musical imagination. God knows what he could have done with a Miles Davis or a Charlie 'Bird' Parker. With Richie Buckley on saxophone and a luscious Hammond organ in the background it is sweeping, meandering uplifting music and a great start to any album.
Arty McGlynn's guitar playing throughout the record is, as is to be expected, top class. Nowhere more so, that at the beginning of the Kelly-penned The Wing Flapper, where the lazily-strummed chords set the tone for a nice, laidback slip jig.
Despite his experiments with salsa and jazz, most of the album is made
up of reels, jigs and hornpipes. His playing (and indeed that of his band)
is perfect throughout, drawing the tunes out of the box like a sorcerer,
because some of the playing really is magical.
Certainly one of this writer's favourites is the Collier's/Paddy Taylor's
Reel. Two reels played with freshness and passion, McGlynn's clean (without
being glossy) production teases the best out of the meandering accordion,
punctuated throughout with jabs of Liam Bradley's snare.
On just his second album, Kelly shows himself to be a force to be reckoned
with. A brave, talented artist, it will be really interesting to see where
he goes from here. The jazz furrow is one he will continue to successfully,
I would say, but it is difficult to imagine him not reaching out to other
genres and branding them with his own stamp. He seems to be a maverick
even by today's standards.
Sean Walsh - Arts West (Apr 2001)
Alan Kelly is an Irish box-player, but unusually he plays the piano box. This is definitely his second album, and confirms him as the most talented and innovative Irish piano accordionist around. Alan Kelly rocks - you can tell that straight away, mainly from the sunglasses - but his rocking almost always enhances the tradition. He's supported on this recording by fellow rockers Arty McGlynn, Nollaig Casey, Rod McVey, Sean Smith and others. At 39 minutes Mosaic may be lacking in quantity, but there's more than enough quality to make up for that.
The eleven tracks here are mainly tradition Irish music, seasoned with salsa, samba, a Scottish stratspey and several contemporary compositions. From the opening notes of "Eva's Reel" the accordion wizardry is awesome, as hardly a finger goes astray in a stunning display of skill. If Alan Kelly's marks for technical merit are high those for artistic impression are even higher: the pairing of his own jaunty "Grier's Slip Jig" with a modal version of "The Kid on the Mountain" is an instant success, and Arty McGlynn's Balkan samba which follows is one of the best new tunes I've heard.
Track 4 is a bit of a low point. Irish Musicians never quiet seem to get enough snap into a stratspey, and "The Glendaruel Highlanders" suffers slightly from slushy synthesiser effects. However, things soon pick up with a great Kelly slow air and a fistful of fine traditional dance tunes. A slow march by McGlynn provides a change of pace, and then another handful of reels are given the Kelly beauty treatment before the album climaxes in a truly miraculous transformation of the Finnish waltz "Forest Flowers", eat your hearts out Cathal, Aly and Phil.
It's nice to hear a new instrumental release from Tara Music, who have rather quiet of late. It's even nicer to hear a release of such high quality and originality. Nicest of all, though, is hearing traditional music handled with such flair and taste. Alan Kelly's playing brings out the magic in the tunes without compromising their identity. Mosaic is an album for everyone who enjoys good music. It's pleasant in the background, perfect in the foreground, and dynamic enough for the underground. Get one Now.
Alex Monaghan - Living Tradition
Alan Kelly is the man who made the piano accordion hip in Ireland again. Roscommon born Kelly has the savvy and the musical expertise to paint a grand canvas and achieve the necessary affect. His debut album Out of the Blue was a cracker - lively, intuitive and brimful of good tunes played with skill and energy. Now comes the bigger label follow-up on John Cook's Tara imprint. Wisely Alan Kelly has altered the same plan to go for a wider, more expansive sound hitting everything in sight from traditional music to Latin and samba styles and a bit of Glen Milleresque big band pyrotechnics along the way.
The assembled band with which he has already gigged with in Ireland - include Arty McGlynn, Nollaig Casey, James Blennerhassett, Sean Smyth, Richie Buckley and that's just for starters. But can Alan Kelly carry the load and more importantly pull off an album as broad in depth and wide of scope as Mosaic is? Happily the answer is in the affirmative. Eva's Reel opens with Mike Westbrook-like scoring and French musette inflections before exploding over a back drop of Rod McVey's Hammond and Liam Bradley's jazzy drumming. The Wing Flapper has Nollaig Casey's fiddle providing a melodic foil, and threatening doom-laden keyboards. The salsa element is prominent on the continental sounding Salamanca Samba, composed by Arty McGlynn, with its mix of Brazilian rhythms allowing saxophonist Richie Buckley to let rip over a carnival backing. Also salsa flavored, Flowers of the Forest allows for more pronounced experimental strains which work conclusively. Kelly's accordion makes light work of Earl Grey's cadences and Leaving Haines shows his power with slow airs. Wisely on this occasion Kelly holds back on the throttle, allowing the tune to weave its magic through a less-is-more approach.
Arty McGlynn's production is spot on throughout, always seeking the melodic cadences and giving them ample space to shine. Mosaic delivers the goods and promises maximum satisfaction, even for listeners with an aversion to piano accordions. Kelly's next moves will be watched with interest.
John O'Regan - FOLK ROOTS
Paddy's Day - Lens style with the Alan Kelly Band Deep in the industrial heartland of Northern France, a poster announces the forthcoming St. Patrick's Day concert of Alan Kelly and friends. Local radio station Radio Pas-de-Calais assures the 'burghers' of Lens that this is a 'spectacle a ne pas manquer' (not to be missed), and by the end of the night, the Lensois have discovered their new heroes of Irish traditional music.
Lens is a town of 'Germinal' character, equally renowned for its footballing as for its musical prowess, and from the first note, the assembled crowd of 700, were out of their seats and jigging and reeling with an enthusiasm, which in the words of accordion maestro Alan Kelly, 'reminded me most of the Festival Club nights at the annual Ennis Trad festival held each November', high praise indeed for this French town.
The genesis of this Leonsois 'en masse' revelry could be explained with one glance at the array of on-stage talent. Alan Kelly is regularly feted as 'one of today's finest exponents of the piano accordion' and tonight's accolades of 'magnifique' and 'formidable' is immense praise indeed from people steeped in the accordeon tradition.
Alan's rich armory of tunes, his infectious zeal for the accordion and his on-stage mastery of the crowd, allied with his wonderfully articulate playing was richly supported by the spirited backing of Frank Kilkelly on guitar and Damian Evans on double bass. Frank's wonderfully agile guitar expertly driving the 'ensemble' into the first Red Haired Lass set of reels and Damian's double bass melodically navigating a path in the musical expanse.
The participation of special guests Mike McGoldrick and Dezi Donnelley on this short French tour was a special treat, fondly treasured by Festival Director, Didier Riez, who has been organising this Celtique gathering over the past 10 years. From the firmament of Irish music, 'nous avons le plaisir de vous presenter…' and what a musical pleasure it turned out to be. From the first memorable sortie into the slip jigs Gusty's Frolics, Alan and friends convincingly engaged the consenting 'publique' and it was love at first 'slide'. The people of the Lens love to dance and dance they did; on the tables, in the balconies and alarmingly on the stage, at one point a reveller being so overcome with the sheer brilliance and 'tempo' of The Berehaven Lassies and Matt the Thresher that he presented Alan with a bunch of white lillies.
The performance encompassed a wonderfully eclectic and energetic mix of traditional arrangements and self-penned tunes from Alan Kelly & Mike McGoldrick. From the exquisitely rhythmic James Brown March to the hauntingly beautiful The Noone Lassies, the virtuosity of the musicians and in particular McGoldrick's low whistle and flute, transported the audience collectively to that Celtique twilight which is the stuff of Gallic dreams. Dezi Donnelly's versatility and spirit of adventure on the fiddle was awe-inspiring throughout the concert and the beautifully executed Hot Club influences in the Diarmuid Moynihan-penned Paper Bird underlines the rich talent of the often 'Stocktons Winger'.
As the concert moved to its soaring apex, a form of Celtique conga was brought to life on the dance floor and within minutes the 'salle' had become a rhythmically flowing mass of people, spellbound by the on-stage musical sorcerers. Clifden-based Duchas, who had opened the concert, joined the on-stage constellation for a Grande finale, which culminated in the inevitable eruption of applause.
A footnote to this amazing concert, further underscoring its achievement was the fact that the Alan Kelly band had returned from the Dallas Irish festival, only days previously and had linked up with Mike & Dezi, literally hours before the concert. Alan Kelly explains, "when you're working with musicians of the calibre of Mike and Dezi, they just dovetail with the music, they meet you half way and it just worked perfectly". This was the first performance of the Alan Kelly band in France and with several summer festival appearances in the offing, it promises to be the first of many. A spectacular performance from a group of musicians who play in the premier league of their respective instruments. The Lensois people have seen a performance to savour and as an audience 'dansant', they have ably played their part in a musical event 'de la plus haute qualité' …Alan Kelly & distinguished guests….. le verdict du jury Lensois..Le Prix D'honneur
Mike Walsh - Irish Music Magazine
ALAN KELLY - Mosaic (Tara Records TARA CD 4010) "Not since the opening bars on the first Sharon Shannon album did I appreciate just how much joy and enthusiasm a performer could wring from a squeezebox. Now you can add another. In Alan Kelly we have Sharon's equivalent on that most unwieldy of beasts, the piano accordion. From the outset with its trumpet led chordal backing, you can tell this is going to be one hell of an album. Mind you, in the innovative hands of producer Arty McGlynn what else would you expect? Bringing together a plethora of Ireland's talented musicians for this session must have been the ultimate rush for Mr. Kelly. Each track has its own distinctive 'feel' giving the listener what he really wants, an album full of surprises. Take McGlynn's own composition 'Salamanca Samba' which as the sleeve notes state sounds like it were made for the accordion. Coupled with Richie Buckley's sax, and again, the use of those trumpets the good-time groove would have everyone bopping at a Mardi Gras. On another track, 'Leaving Haines/Johnny McGreevy's Jig' the setup rhythm on guitar leaves you feeling that the musicians are about to go into a reel but from the title you should realise nothing is what it seems. Kelly may be a musician's musician but I'm glad to report that he allows the warmth of his playing to encompass the most hardened of souls."
"An idle thought crossed the mind lately: wonder what Arty McGlynn is up to? Here's the answer, a great collaboration with Alan Kelly. It goes borrowing on the accordion flavours of other countries and traditions, and Alan, with his awesomely neat triplets and limpid tone from the Saltarelle is in great form. The key to the success is that each style is treated with respect, on its own terms, and a real sense of enjoyment comes across, plus the confidence born of being a truly fine player. Thus one track is called the Salamanca samba: oops said I, is this a big reel reborn? Not at all: it's a great sprightly tune from Arty on which Alan mixes it with Richie Buckley on sax. Other guests include Nollaig Casey and Jimmy Blennerhasset. The very next track is a brace of strathspeys, played with an equal understanding and love of the tune. It may be an eclectic mix, but there's nothing forced or artificial about it, and there are fair few surprises. For instance, the Flowers of the Forest has nothing to do with Flodden, 1513 and all that: it's a Finnish waltz given salsa treatment. It works. It's amazing how some tunes come into prominence: Alan has the Colliers, and the Pride of Rathmore/The Girls of Farranfore. He's not the only one with these on display but it's a great version he has. There are 13 musicians in all, including Alan's brother, John, on flute for three reels: it's the sort of playing that when you encounter it at a fleadh, you know you can settle in for while, 'cos you've hit pay-dirt. There's also a lovely lazy hornpipe, The Plane of the Plank, composed by Liz Carroll: she should be very happy with this recording. Maybe at 39 minutes, it's a short experience, but there isn't a weak track on it. It's an excellently produced showcase of a very talented and genuine musician."
John Brophy IRISH MUSIC MAGAZINE (OCTOBER 2000)
Master of the stomach Steinway....
Piano accordions can be scary things. Alan Kelly's is scarier than most. Scarily, fantastically good!!
For many the piano accordion is an acquired taste, but Alan Kelly can convert even the most wary listener into a rabid, slavering maniac for the piano accordion. Trust me. Alan doesn't just play the accordion, he celebrates it in way that draws you into the passion he puts into the music he plays. And besides, he has a great, wacky way of turning a waltz into a salsa, or adding sax and trumpets in reels. But don't underestimate him. He may have some fun with the tunes, but his traditional ties are solid gold.
Roscommon born Kelly released his first CD "Out of the Blue" to rave reviews and this follow-up, "Mosaic", is further evidence of the enormous talent this man has. In fact, the first track on this CD, "Eva's Reel", tickled me so much that I couldn't get past it to listen to the rest of the tunes. With its skiffle beat and whimsical light-hearted sound, all I could do was hit the "repeat" button on the CD player while the grin on my face got wider and wider. Composed by Kelly, it is hoped that he will put more of his compositional skills to use on his next release, cause this one's a beaut!
A mosaic is a picture or pattern made up of small, colorful pieces of tiles and Kelly's CD is of a similar nature. Fearless in his approach to the music, but never sloppy, the "Salamanca Salsa", penned by guitar guru Arty McGlynn smokes with Kelly on accordion. In complete contrast on the next track,Alan slips into "Earl Grey", a delightful strathspey he got from Capercaillie's Donald Shaw.
While Kelly might have some fun with tunes like "Salamanca Salsa, there's" no messing about when he goes into the reel sets like "Pride of Rathmore/Micho Russel's" and "The Colliers/Paddy Taylor's Reel". Kelly's confident bold playing comes from growing up in the rich Roscommon musical landscape--known throughout Ireland for the flute players--and some darn good piano accordion players, for Kelly learned the accordion from his dad, who played in Ceili bands. When Alan's brother John, joins in on flute for "Jim Donoghue's Reel/Martin Wynne's No. 3/Palmer's Gate", it simply transports you to another sphere. I fell in love with Irish music because of playing like this.....it is mighty.
Surrounded by great musicians in their own right on this CD such as Sean Smyth (fiddle), Nollaig Casey (fiddle), Arty McGlynn (guitar), James Blennerhasset (bass), Liam Bradley (drums), Richie Buckley (saxophone), Rod McVey (Hammond Organ, piano) and others, this is a palette splashed with many colors--all solid, vibrant and immensely enjoyable.
The final track is perhaps the most fun of the lot. A popular Finnish waltz that somehow headed south and became a salsa. It is gas altogether, and I defy anyone to stop dancing when you hear it. If you can't dance to this one, check your pulse, 'cause you've gotta be dead.
Indulge yourself in one of the most enjoyable listening experiences this year--get on the Alan Kelly bandwagon. The line starts here..
Cindy Reich - Celtic Connections Magazine
ALAN KELLY - MOSAIC (TARA) It's been the revival to beat all revivals. After the born-again triumphs of the button accordion, the nativity of the piano accordion might have almost seemed inevitable. But its rehabilitation from instrument fit only for demonic infernos to acceptable session player, hasn't had quiet the sex appeal or PR campaign that its buttoned cousin had before it. Still, Alan Kelly isn't a musician to be boxed in by either image or imagination.
Mosaic is precisely what its moniker suggests: a delicate arrangement of precisely positioned pieces, each one catching the light through a prism of its own design. Kelly's music boldly goes where few have ventured before. This is box playing with balls, stepping way past frontiers long thought the corral and backbone of the piano accordion sound. He may not yet be gracing the cover of the Rolling Stone, but Mosaic should go a long way in ensuring Kelly's music is heard long past the confines of the pub session or fleadh.
There's a whole rake of moods permeating this collection. From the lonesome solo run on the slow air of 'Leaving Haines' to the pelvic swivels of 'Salamanca Samba' and the double-take of 'The Pride of Rathmore/Micho Russell's Reel' (and a knowing nod in the direction of 'The Girls of Farranfore' in its midst), Kelly plumbs depths and soars to heights that are usually only reached with the help of a serious drug cabinet.
Bearing the hallmark production style of Arty McGlynn (who also penned 'Salamanca Samba'), and venturing into soul territory worthy of Curtis Mayfield at his peak ('Johnny McGreevy's Jig'), courtesy of Rod McVey's hammond organ, this is not a collection for those with a puritanical ear. This is ecumenism at its come-all-ye best.
Alan Kelly's kept his powder dry for far too long. His debut,
Out Of The Blue was a confident whistle blower of an album, heralding
the luminous talent that's matured magnificently on Mosaic. And with a
gathering of musicians of such impeccable character as Nollaig Casey,
James Blennerhasset, Liam Bradley and Jimmy Higgins - alongside the genius
interloper, Richie Buckley - Kelly can do no wrong. Long may his Mosaic
glisten in the sun.
Siobhán Long 3/10/2000
Tønder 2002: Old and new Celtic and Danish music: Friday evening approached and the usual Tønder dilemma, which concerts to go to?! I love the atmosphere inside the big tents so I plumped for The Alan Kelly Mosaic Band in Tent 1 to start with. I have been an admirer of Alan´s since his work in the Michael Mc Goldrick big band and his debut CD Out of the Blue from 1997. John Kelly, Alan`s brother, on flute led into the first three reels and set the tone for the rest of the gig. Arrangements varied from the the experimental to the traditional and included some of the tunes he and his brother have just released on a CD called "Fourmilehouse".This band has so many star performers and features the very jazzy playing of Richie Buckly on sax and Daniel Healy on trumpet, not to mention that former showband guitar hero Arty Mc Glynn. Arty is one of the all time originals of Irish music from the last twenty years and one baroque piece of his sticks in the mind.When Alan and the seven members of his band finished the crowd was buzzing as the stage crew rushed around doing their usual rapid changeover.
Eugene Graham - FolkWorld