The Chieftains are, at heart, a traditional Irish instrumental group. They were formed in 1962 and remain a popular worldwide act. They have received eighteen Grammy nominations, winning the coveted award six times.
1997 found them returning to the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival for the first time in 21 years. They may have seemed like an odd choice but their brand of entertainment, complete with step-dancers and bagpipe players, fit into the flavor of the festival just fine as they presented Irish culture and music at its best.
This 1997 incarnation of the group consisted of uilleann pipes and tin whistle player Paddy Moloney, flutist Matt Molloy, percussionist and vocalist Kevin Conneff, harpist and pianist Derek Bell, plus fiddle players Martin Fay and Sean Keane.
The concert highlights include two long medleys from recently released albums. The Long Black Veil, released in 1995, included the likes of Van Morrison, Sting, The Rolling Stones, Mark Knopfler and Tom Jones. Without these superstars present for this performance they take “Have I Told You Lately/Mo Ghile Mear/The Rocky Road To Dublin/Reels and Dance” in new directions. They fill in the musical gaps with a multitude of traditional Irish instruments.
Santiago, released in 1996, won the 1997 Grammy for Best World Music album. The medley of “Galician Overture/Dueling Chanters” has depth, sophistication and a constantly changing tempo, making it the most interesting piece on the album. “Guadalupe,” also from Santiago,is presented as close to the studio track as possible with Bea Riobo filling in for original vocalist Linda Ronstadt.
“Did You Ever Go A Courtin’ Uncle Joe” allows each musician to step forward for a solo, showing their individual expertise on a variety of instruments.
The sound and visual quality are excellent and there is a clarity which greatly enhances the performance. The group appears relaxed as they create an intimate setting for their audience.
Live At Montreux 1997 is a superb glimpse into the world of The Chieftains and Irish music. It is a world in which the music not only entertains but also makes you feel better for having been present.