Cormac McCarthy, Cottage Evolution, Lyte ****
This is the debut of Cork pianist and composer Cormac McCarthy. And what a fine debut it is.
Highly melodic with a rural theme both in some of the song titles (‘The Farm Hand’, ‘Starved Rock’, ‘Sad Country’) and album iconography (as you can see above featuring rolling hills in pastel shades, a more sombre mono inset), the album operates on several levels: as a piano trio in some sections – McCarthy joined by bassist Eoin Walsh and drummer Davie Ryan as on opener ‘The Farm Hand’ – or sizing up for bigger statements to include a larger well integrated chamber group featuring woodwinds, trombone, and a small string section.
McCarthy as a pianist sounds a little like Brad Mehldau, yet it’s his writing style, while leaning sometimes towards aHighway Rider-type atmosphere particularly on ‘Bill’s Words’, making individualistic use of Irish traditional music with its lilting strictnesses and sudden bursts of passionate energy introduced via a pronounced jazz filter, that sets Cottage Evolution apart. The arranging, again McCarthy’s work, is excellent. A striking vocal by Ciara Walton at the end on ‘The Bluebell Woods’ draws tantalisingly on Celtic myth.
Stephen Graham - Marlbank Jazz Website
Cormac McCarthy: Cottage Evolution | Album Review
The Irish tradition has been strangely resistant to infection by the jazz virus. With a few notable exceptions, no jazz musician has ever really managed to draw together Irish traditional music and the African-American improvisatory tradition in any kind of sustained way.
Cork pianist and composer Cormac McCarthy joins that short list of notable exceptions with this approachable debut release.
The influence of the American mid-west (McCarthy studied composition at Chicago’s De Paul University) is also audible in the young composer’s sweepingly cinematic tunes, and there are distinct echoes of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, but this creditable debut suggests that a younger generation may be finding their own path to the Irish trad waterfall.
Cormac Larkin - The Irish Times