Festival offers McKnights to remember

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One of the hottest properties in Irish jazz music, Belfast-based guitarist Mark McKnight says he loves the relaxed vibe of the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival.

McKnight, whose improvisational approach has led to him being described in terms as “the future of Irish Jazz guitar” by the Irish Times is a big fan of the festival which takes place in the Walled City over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend.

“I think it’s great, bringing a lot of music into Derry that you normally wouldn’t hear. In Northern Ireland we don’t get that much jazz so to have a full weekend devoted to it in one our major cities is just great. The whole place just comes alive with the music, every pub and café in the town seems to have music, there’s a real carnival vibe in the air. Obviously the band will have to rehearse when we get to Derry just to run through the songs but I would hope to have the time to walk around the town and listen to a few other acts. I did that last year and there was a great atmosphere,” he said.

McKnight’s profile has risen rapidly both at home and on an international level with awards including Best Young Irish Musician Award from the Cork Jazz Festival, being chosen to represent Ireland (North and South) in the 12 Points Festival (Norway) and also the UK in the European Jazz Orchestra. 2010 saw Mark’s profile reach new heights and was rounded off by the recording of his second studio album as a band leader. The record, entitled Do or Die, will be released by exciting new label Whirlwind Recordings mid 2011 and Mark is hopeful of launching it at the Derry Jazz festival:

“I’m currently finishing off my PHD at University so that’s taken up a lot of my time over the past few months but before that I had a big tour around Ireland with my organ quartet, that was with an American saxophonist called Seamus Blake. At the festival we are going to be playing with a Mike Chillingworth, he’s a UK based saxophonist who’s amazing in his own right. We are hoping to launch my new album at the festival. It was recorded with the band in October and I’m hoping to have the CDs back in time for a launch here in Derry at the festival,” he said.

The Mark McKnight Organ Band is playing at the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival at Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin on Saturday, April 30 at 8pm for tickets call 02871268027.

For further information on the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival visit www.cityofderryjazzfestival.com