The Beloved and I just returned from a week in Ireland. Our itinerary included University College Cork and Dalkey (a suburb of Dublin where Harriet O’Donovan Sheehy, Maeve Binchy, Bono, Van Morrison, and other notables live). And the sun shone for all but one day.
When I first visited Ireland, continuing my work on the short-story writer Frank O’Connor, I didn’t expect to find jazz. In fact, in those pre-iPod days, I brought pounds of CDs, trying to prevent the deprivation that I was sure would befall me. But jazz kept on popping up to surprise me. I heard CDs by guitarists Louis Stewart and Hugh Buckley, and was invited to jam sessions featuring Toddy’s Hot Stompers and other congenial assemblages.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised this time when I stumbled onto my favorite art form.
But I was. People who love this music are forever lamenting dwindling audiences, the closing of clubs, the names in the obituary pages . . . . with very good reason. And the sweet ubiquity of jazz in my childhood — Louis and Duke on television, Jimmy McPartland playing a free concert in a Long Island park, Bobby Hackett on the radio — is surely nostalgia rather than current reality. These days, I can expect to hear Ben Webster as dinner music only if I’ve put his CDs on while the chicken is roasting.
And yet . . . . there was Denise Connolly’s fascinating Cork bookshop. It was a sweet, enlightened disorder of books of all kinds, opera records, and more. But what caught my attention was the music coming out of Ms. Connolly’s mini stereo system: Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelly playing “Limehouse Blues,” then “I’ve Had My Moments,” and more — vintage 1937. When I told her how delighted I was by her soundtrack, she smiled and said that, yes, Django, Lionel Hampton, and Thelonious Monk were her favorites. Visit Connolly’s Bookshop, not only for the jazz, but the books!
And the HMV store on Grafton Street has sections devoted not only to Louis and Duke, but also to Bix Beiderbecke and Humphrey Lyttelton.
It did my heart good. Just when I thought jazz had gone into hiding, it poked its head out of the shadows and gave me a big wink.