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This article was first published on CLUAS in Aug 1999

Borrowed Time

The Jazz Wonders of the ILAC Music Library

In Dublin's ILAC Centre, beyond the clothes stores with their nipple-adorned mannequins and passed all the lampshade haircuts and zebra tracksuits, you can climb a stairway to a little piece of heaven: The Ilac Library.

Once in, turn right and you'll meet and greet the music library with its vast selection of reference books (Reggae: The Rough Guide, Guinness Encyclopedia), a dozen or so magazines periodicals (from Opera News to fROOTS), 2000 LP's, 6000 cassettes and 5000 CDs with listening posts for instant aural arousal.

You can take home Jerry Lee Lewis' 'Good Rockin' Tonight', a Dizzy Gillespie autobiography or Psychotic 'Reactions & Carburettor Dung' by Lester Bangs. The latter having notable pieces on Bowie and Kraftwerk (as well as 17 reasons why Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' is a good album!?).

Stray to the far-side of the issuing desk and you'll find the audio section. A little revelation with plenty of curios looming large: 'Seven Steps To Mercy' by Iarla O Lionaird, a great double CD folk music compilation on the Rounder label, seminal punk rock soundtrack 'Repo Man' and 'Cult Music Of Northern Brazil' on vinyl no less. You'd be right to bitch about the dearth of contemporary artists and music available - the catalogue at times reading like a John Kelly playlist - but there's always Stockhausen (to help understand the madcap Aphex Twin) and minimalist Steve Reich (an inspiration to everyone from the Orb to Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto). To add to this pool of influence, joining dots between past and present, are recordings by Townes Van Zandt, Coltrane, Ennio Morricone and Howlin' Wolf. Although not all inclusive it still provides a valuable reference point for getting to know those name-checked names you never checked.

With your knowledge of musical history now a bit less of a mystery, you can save your German firework gasps yet for the music library's centrepiece - the wonderful archive of a dozen or so jazz & blues videos.

Sun Ra & June Tyson 'Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise' is a fascinating cinema-verite portrait of the Alabama-born, free-jazz harbinger Herman Poole Blount. He of astral lineage ('I am a different order of being'), sporting Afronaut cape, purple stubble and bunched wires flailing from the head, cites the importance of mythocracy over theocracy while espousing the teachings of Ancient Egypt (fifty years ahead of the Wu Tang Clan. Just another Wiggy Out-there Brother then?? Ask MC5, Sonic Youth or just hear out one-time Jazz Messenger and & tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, who evangelises that Ra's knowledge of intervals and harmonies are ahead of Monk and Bird. So it seems there is method in madness after all.

 Duke Ellington A little closer to ground is 'On The Road With Duke Ellington' from 1967, catching the Duke in revealing light, on and off-stage. You can see him ordering hot water from his bedroom (he didn't drink tea or coffee), speaking of Billy Strayhorn's death (Take The A Train) and citing a socks-in the-fridge cool rendition of the Ellington guide to becoming a hepcat: 'No one snaps their finger on the beat, it's considered aggressive, establish an air of nonchalance, tilt earlobe on beat and snap finger on afterbeat'. So you know where to go to get simple grinds from a jazz giant?.

Charles Mingus on a U.S. Postage Stamp The only man sacked personally by Duke Ellington - Charles Mingus - leads us to the documentary 'Mingus' directed by Thomas Reichman. On the eve of his New York loft eviction and arrest we see Charles in relaxed form, discussing Kennedy's killer, chatting with his daughter and divulging his three days/three night love barometer. His bullish irascibility rears its head eventually though, when he spits 'I hope the Communists blow you up' in the direction of the swarming media and police.

 Art Pepper 'If this is what the Devil's got, that's what I want'. So remembers Art Pepper of his initial heroin dabble with a girl in a Chicago nightclub toilet. 'Art Pepper: Notes From A Jazz Survivor' hears out the great alto sax player on drugs, an estranged daughter and the parallels between a jazz musician and a criminal. 'The heartbreaking dope fiend' - as his wife Laurie once called him - counts his blessings with the wry admission that he has kicked dope, cigarettes and alcohol but not sweets!

The ILAC Music Library has an annual membership fee of £5.

Ronan Quinn

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