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Monday, June 18, 2018

Mark Williams & Joel Byrne-McCullough @ Blaydon Jazz Club - June 17

Mark Williams (guitar) & Joel Byrne-McCullough (guitar)
(Review by Russell/Photos courtesy of Roly). 
A select audience, as they say, comprised of Blaydon Jazz Club diehards and the jazz guitar fan. It so happened Brazil (versus Switzerland) entertained a global television audience as Mark Williams and Joel Byrne McCullough took to the stage in the lounge of the Black Bull. All thoughts of football were banished to the back of the mind to focus attention on two fine guitarists at work.
There Will Never be Another You opened the first set. The seated Williams and Byrne-McCullough played as if friends, relaxed, as though at home. And, of course, that is exactly what Mark and Joel are…friends from their days growing up in Belfast. A written setlist on the floor, iPhones and iPads weren’t required, this was to be an old-school performance, the duo knew the tunes. Chick Corea’s Windows sounded dangerously modern (1970s!), Autumn in New York sounded just what it is, one of the graceful, timeless tunes.

New Yorker Peter Bernstein is seemingly a current favourite with fellow guitarists. At DJazz earlier in the month Birmingham Conservatoire undergraduate Francis Tulip included a Bernstein number in his festival set, similarly here at the Black Bull, the Irishmen chose to play Little Green Men. The thought occurred that invisible little men (green or not) were running up and down the fretboard as Williams and Byrne-McCullough worked wonders weaving mesmerising solos around the melody! Stella by Starlight…it’s as if the duo knew this one would go down well at Blaydon Jazz Club. The fact that Mark Williams knows all about Blaydon’s GASbook leanings no doubt influenced matters!

Second set: Darn That Dream…another Blaydon favourite! Reading one’s audience is a good idea and the Williams-Byrne-McCullough duo continued to do precisely that. Steve Swallow followed by Neal Hefti offered contrast – Falling Grace then Girl Talk. Byrne-McCullough did the talking with an appealing line in self-deprecation. And that’s no bad thing with a couple of test pieces in their set list; Chick Corea’s Spain and, towards the end of an enjoyable evening of great guitar playing, the duo flew high on Bird’s Anthropology. The duo suggested they could play another one, if that was alright with the audience. Yes, please! A blues? said Byrne-McCullough, Williams suggesting they make it a slow blues. An evening of jazz guitar excellence at Blaydon Jazz Club. 
 Russell       
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