Noel Kelehan Quintet - Ozone LP


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Label: Outernational Sounds

Long sought-after by those in know, this essential Irish jazz album finally gets a vinyl reissue on Outernational Sounds. Fully licensed from producer John D'Ardis, remastered at Abbey Road from the original tapes, and with lacquers cut at Dubplates and Mastering, the Noel Kelehan Quintet's stunning 1979 Ozone is presented with unseen photographs of the band and commentary from original band members. Featuring moody, modal jazz of the first order, subtle and original composing and world-class playing, Ozone was the creation of Ireland's most respected jazz composer and musician, pianist Noel Kelehan (1935-2012). The only small-group album under his name, and arguably the first ever Irish jazz LP, Ozone was a landmark recording, but it was far from Kelehan's only achievement.
Born in Dublin, Kelehan had studied music from an early age. From the mid-1950s he worked at state-broadcaster Radio √Čireann, and from the early 1960s he fronted Dublin's first be-bop unit, the Jazz Heralds. A busy professional career saw him compose for numerous Irish pop stars, arrange and conduct many of Ireland's Eurovision entries, and even contribute string arrangements to U2's Unforgettable Fire LP. But jazz was Kelehan's first passion, and he never stopped playing in both small modernist units and composing for his own big band.
The late 1970s saw him fronting the Noel Kelehan Quintet, alongside drummer John Wadham, saxophonist Keith Donald, bassist Frank Hess, and trumpeter Mick Nolan. Playing weekly in Dublin for several years, they opened for visiting stars including Dollar Brand and the Ronnie Scott Orchestra, and eventually played a two-week residency at Ronnie Scotts in London. Though Kelehan had recorded a big-band LP of traditional Irish songs arranged as easy jazz in 1970, Ozone was his first album of modern jazz.
Released on John D'Ardis's independent Cargo imprint and press on blue vinyl, it featured original compositions such as the deep collectors cut "Spon Song," subtle Latin flavors on "Spacer's Delight" and a beautiful modal arrangement of the traditional Irish air "Castle of Dromore." A legendary recording in Ireland, Ozone reflected Kelehan's keen appreciation of classic quintet-era Miles, with touches of the cerebral fusion of Ian Carr and the arranging genius of Neil Ardley. Not just a landmark Irish jazz set, Ozone is a lost classic of European jazz more widely.