The "Undivided" project has been 25 years in the making…
In 1988, years before he became a worldwide star of the Irish flute, Michael McGoldrick asked a young British jazz trumpeter, Neil Yates, to put together a brass section for his band Toss the Feathers. He had no idea Yates was already a devotee of Irish tradition, listening to and copying Matt Molloy and Seamus Ennis with the same curiosity that most trumpeters have for Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie. When he heard Neil playing traditional tunes on trumpet while warming up he saw the potential for something very new. The seed was sown for the music you're about to hear.
Over the next two decades Michael cemented his place as the worlds most exciting traditional flute player and a primary innovator in Irish traditional music. His seminal cross-over albums Fused, Wired and Aurora, for which Neil again provided exciting brass arrangements, inspired a generation and changed the direction of Irish traditional music forever. Meanwhile, Neil flitted between the jazz and folk worlds, playing with Johnny Dankworth one night, Kate Rusby the next. He released two internationally acclaimed crossover albums of his own, New Origins and Five Countries, both running the boundaries of the two genres, both paving the way for a new genuinely sound and influencing young jazzers everywhere. The two joined forces many times over the next 25 years, cementing a deep musical understanding across the generic divide.
In December 2016 Prof. Jeff Kunkel of Montclaire State University in New Jersey USA invited Neil to America to rehearse and perform the suite with the students Jazz Ensemble, along with the cream of New York's Irish Musicians. The venture was a great success, with all participants and audience citing a "culturally unique experience".
1st Rehearsal - Freefalling Reels
2nd Rehearsal - Annam Cara
Undivided (commissioned through PRSF Foundation's Beyond Borders Scheme) is a suite for full jazz orchestra and traditional band that seamlessly integrates the Irish and jazz traditions in some of the most fun, beautiful and exciting arrangements you'll ever hear. The writing is full of care and respect - not a juxtaposition of mismatched idioms like so many such projects - a fluid DNA-level splicing, a bi-cultural entity in its own right. The smiles on the musicians' faces say it all, knowing looks exchanged between jazzers and traditional musicians, all having fun together in mutual admiration and respect, all enjoying the relaxed and natural flow of the music they're creating.
The seemingly incompatible musicians come together under the experienced baton of Dr. Yates who wrote his Phd thesis on exactly this; creating music which fills in the gaps between these musical genres. The premier of the work at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall for Celtic Connections 2014 saw top Scottish jazzers from Tommy Smith's Scottish National Jazz Orchestra joining Michael McGoldrick and 7 world renowned traditional players on flutes, fiddles and accordions, including fiddle Stars Emma Sweeny, Dezi Donnelly, Alan Kelly and Martin O'Neill. They weave their flowing melodies through splashes of Duke Ellington, Gil Evans and Maria Schneider as if it has always been so.
".... a Celtic Connections gig. A project called Undivided, with Neil Yates, Michael McGoldrick and a 21 piece 'folk/jazz orchestra' which absolutely ambushed me with sheer joy! Don't ask me which label to put on the music ; all I know is that I had tears streaming down my cheeks! Wonderful, imaginative, innovative. Just a joy."