By Earle Hitchner
MOVING CLOUD, Towne Crier Cafe, 130 Rte. 22, Pawling, N.Y. Aug. 27.
Eleven years ago, Moving Cloud first came to public attention during the set-dancing boom that swept through Clare and other western counties in Ireland. Their dance music was irresistible then, and it still is now. But since 1995, the year their superb self-titled debut album was released on Green Linnet, the Clare-based quintet have carved out an even stronger name for themselves as a concert band.
At this Aug. 27 concert, the last of their U.S. tour, Moving Cloud performed a great deal of new material that displayed a chance-taking, at times whimsical side to their collective musical personality. Besides a breathtaking whistle solo on a pair of reels that included "The Flowers of Red Hill," Kevin Crawford did a quirkily impressive bodhrán solo that slid into a slice of solo jazz piano playing from Carl Hession, drawing inspiration from Oscar Peterson and the Modern Jazz Quartet’s John Lewis in his phrasing. A mix of Irish and American melodies included "The Galway Rambler" as well as "Cotton-Eyed Joe," 1928’s "Yellow Rose of Texas," and Dan Emmett’s even older (1860) "Dixie." It all worked splendidly.
Manus McGuire on fiddle, Crawford on flute, and Hession on piano meshed flawlessly on the song air "Sliabh Geal gCua," with McGuire further distinguishing himself on a six-part jig, "The Old Grey Goose." M’ve Donnelly showcased her fiddling virtuosity on some reels played in the style of East Galway, her home turf, and Paul Brock, using a Castagnari melodeon, gave a riveting performance on the jigs "Kitty’s Rambles/The Cook in the Kitchen/Paidin O’Rafferty" and on "Jigging/Old Man and Old Woman."
The quintet imparted a fluid, swanlike grace to some waltzes, and their playing of a jig and reel, "Off to the Hunt" and "Molly Bawn," bookended by the "Battle of Aughrim" march, was a model of tight-shifting tempos. Adding some tasty flings, Kerry polkas, and Paul Brock’s intriguing rendition of French Canada’s "Chinese Polka," Moving Cloud proved they are a traditional band of consummate skill who know how to keep their repertoire fresh and exciting.