The Martin Hayes Quartet expands on many of the musical ideas pursued by Martin in his longstanding partnership with Dennis Cahill. The melody still remains central but now with an added range of sonic possibilities provided by the bass clarinet and viola d'amore. The addition of these instruments creates an added aural texture and amplifies the rhythmic possibilities while also allowing a larger role for improvisation. Both Doug and Liz bring a wealth of musical experience that contributes to the spacious, rich arrangements of the Quartet.
A Film by Myles O Reilly on the making of The Blue Room
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Doug Wieselman (Bass Clarinet) – has worked as composer, arranger and musician with a variety of artists in different fields – in theater - with director Robert Woodruff and the Flying Karamazov Brothers, in dance with Jerome Robbins and Paul Taylor, and as musician with Victoria Williams, Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz, Lou Reed, Tricky, Anthony Coleman, Laurie Anderson, Syd Straw, Steven Bernstein, Joan as PoliceWoman & John Lurie, among many others. He is currently composing music for the animated Nickelodeon show "The Backyardigans" in association with Evan Lurie.
Liz Knowles (Viola/Violin) – first distinguished herself as a violinist in New York City, performing in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Broadway, with such artists such as Marcus Roberts, the Bang-on-a-Can Orchestra, Bobby McFerrin, Paula Cole, Steve Reich, Eliot Goldenthal, Rachel Barton, Don Henley, and Tim O’Brien. It was also in New York that she discovered her true passion for Irish music. Today, she is well respected on both sides of the Atlantic as a player, composer and teacher. Her compositions and arrangements of tunes and songs have been recorded by John Whelan, Liz Carroll, Beolach, J.P. Cormier, Michael Black, John Doyle, Dennis Cahill, and Flook.
Dennis Cahill (Guitar) is one of the most respected and innovative guitar players in the world of traditional Irish music. Not just content with accompanying tunes, he has developed a distinct approach to playing traditional Irish music, incorporating the ornaments and subtleties used by the various instruments utilized within the Irish music genre. He has performed and recorded with many acclaimed Irish traditional music practitioners including Kevin Burke, Liz Carroll, Seamus Egan, P.J. Hayes, Eileen Ivers, Arty McGlynn, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Liam O’Flynn, and Jimmy Keane. Dennis’ long and legendary musical partnership with Martin Hayes both as a duet and as co-founding member of The Gloaming has brought him to concert halls and festivals around the world, playing for presidents and prime ministers as well as small villages throughout Ireland. Both on the larger stage and the village hall, Dennis is recognized as one of Irish music’s most sympathetic accompanists, anchoring the rhythm with a unique, minimalist and mesmerising style.
Martin Hayes’ (Violin) soulful interpretations of traditional Irish music are recognized the world over for their exquisite musicality and irresistible rhythm. He has toured and recorded with guitarist Dennis Cahill for over twenty years, and has collaborated with extraordinary musicians in the classical, folk and contemporary music worlds including Bill Frisell, Ricky Skaggs, Jordi Savall, Brooklyn Rider and the Irish Chamber Orchestra as well as many of the greatest Irish musicians over the past thirty years. He is the artistic director of Masters of Tradition, an annual festival in Bantry, Co. Cork and a co-curator for the Marble Sessions at the Kilkenny Arts Festival. Martin has been recognized as Musician of the Year (the Gradam Ceoil) from TG4, Irish language television; The Spirit of Ireland Award by the Irish Arts Center and Person of the Year by the American Irish Historical Society, both based in New York City. He founded the seminal Irish American band, The Gloaming, with whom he tours internationally and with whom he shared the prestigious Meteor Prize in 2015 for their debut album.
* Photo's from the recording session in Bantry House
How the Quartet Came Into Being
I have been playing music with Dennis Cahill since 1988. We’ve been working our craft as a duet for most of those years. We’ve tried to sculpt a sound that is somewhat minimalist but based on revealing the latent expressive potential of the melody. To do this we try to strip away anything that obstructs or obscures the melodic line. In our performances we then attempt to get out of the way to allow for a natural free flow of music. The most important thing is that we are fully present in the moment and that there is plenty room for spontaneous things to emerge in that moment. We want each phrase of the melody to emerge as freely as possible with the guitar accompaniment helping to highlight the melodic phrase and helping to magnify the expression and feeling that the melody suggests to us. The rhythm underlying how we play is a distillation of the rhythm I came to know during my adolescent years playing for the incredible set dancers of county Clare. They responded to music in an exuberant, uninhibited, personal and non performance manner that really showed me what this rhythm is. I always try to play as though I am freely dancing and singing at the same time. The body holds the rhythm and the heart generates the feeling in response to the beauty of the melodic line. Dennis Cahill's playing and partnership over the years has been an invaluable support to me in realizing all of these musical goals. This is the starting point from which this quartet emerges.
I met Doug in 2011 as I was walking on stage at La Poisson Rouge in NY to perform as part of Philip King's Other Voices series. I walked past him to my chair at the center of the stage without ever noticing what instrument he was playing. He was there performing along side Thomas Bartlett as part of the house band for that night. Shortly after I began to play I started to hear the sound of a bass clarinet coming over my right shoulder. He was instinctively playing with a powerful rhythm that echoed the rhythm of those set dancers I had known so long ago. He colored out the harmonic world around the tune as if he’d known these tunes his whole life. I was having an incredibly instinctive and sympathetic dialogue with a musician that I had yet to say hello to and who’s name I didn’t know. This was my first musical encounter with Doug Wieselman.
In 2016 the University of Limerick foundation offered me a three year affiliated position as University of Limerick Artist. I have a long association with the university and was honoured to receive their endorsement which also came with some financial support for musical projects that I may wish to pursue. My wife Lina had heard me perform subsequent to the La Poisson Rouge gig with Doug at the Irish Arts Center in NY. She loved the music we made and saw how excited I was about playing with him. She suggested that I get Doug involved in my UL artist project. I’d wanted to create something with Doug for some time and eventually settled on the notion of a quartet. I just needed one other person.
I met Liz Knowles way back in the mid 90’s at a music camp in Nova Scotia. She was then a violinist coming from a classical background with a curiosity for Scottish and Irish traditional music. This kind of transition isn’t easy but Liz immersed herself into this music with full commitment and enthusiasm. In the years since she has gone on to forge a very successful Irish Music career in North America and is now regarded there as one of the foremost fiddlers in the genre. She is an incredible violist and violin player who can play traditional music as good as the best but who also carries with her a wonderful knowledge and skill for early music, baroque and classical music. Playing music with her is a delight, one minute she is playing a counter melody, the next she’s mirroring my version of the melody, or playing a rhythmic pattern. She manages to deploy all of her diverse musical skill in a way that helps give this ensemble its unique sound. Her playing in the quartet is integral to keeping the traditional melodic line knitted into the arrangements.
Our first rehearsal together was at the University of Limerick in 2016. In advance of this get together I had sent some melodies to everyone so that they would be familiar with the tunes. There were no instructions given as to what anybody should play. My strong belief was that this project should be able to accommodate each musician in freely expressing the totality of their musical selves. This was an experiment and also an act of trust that the musical knowledge and background of each individual would eventually coalesce into a coherent sound. When we got to the first rehearsal we sat in a circle and began to toss our ideas into the center. After about two days of playing it became clear that the sound emerging kept traditional Irish music at its center while containing elements of chamber and jazz music. In fact the sound didn’t fall easily into any one category, instead a unique sound was beginning to emerge from the confluence of these four different musical backgrounds.
I have a long standing relationship with Bantry House that goes back to 2003 when I first started curating the masters of Tradition Festival there. My wife Lina and I have enjoyed spending time there and have gotten to know the family quit well, we love the house and it's magical gardens. Lina felt this would be a great place for us to record the quartet. I have performed in the library many times and love the atmosphere of that room, there is an ambience and feeling there that is very conducive to making music. We sat in a circle in that beautiful library with two open fires blazing at either side of us and began to play much as we had done when we first met in Limerick. In the recording process we played each piece a number of times and something different would emerge each time. In some ways this recording resembles a live recording in so far as it is not edited together or created with the aid of any studio tricks. The only difference is that we had plenty of time to approach each tune in different ways and experiment until something emerged. Each track is essentially a live performance. Every night after dinner we sat by the fire with the rest of the crew, with Lina and Myles O’Reilly ( film maker) and his wife Aideen and listened to the recordings of the day. We could hear how the music had absorbed the atmosphere and character of this beautiful old library and it’s gardens. Our close proximity to the sea during a week in December just before Christmas has also contributed to the feeling of this recording. The title of the album 'The Blue Room' is connected to all these feelings and to the stunning Blue room in Bantry House.
It is an honor and a privilege to play with these three great musicians. I conceived this idea and have been the driving force behind the project but the music that has emerged is truly the result of a free and equal collaboration.