Irish fiddle virtuoso Martin Hayes and American guitarist Dennis Cahill possess a rare musical kinship. Together they have garnered international renown for taking traditional music to the very edge of the genre, and holding listeners spellbound with their slow-building, fiery performances. The New York Times calls them “a Celtic complement to Steve Reich’s quartets or Miles Davis’ Sketches of Spain.”
Martin Hayes has been an All-Ireland fiddle champion six times over; he was awarded the prestigious 2008 Musician of the Year award from Ireland’s TG4 (Irish language television), and recently led a group of fellow musicians to sold out performances at the Sydney Opera House in his role as artistic director of The Masters of Tradition.
Dennis Cahill is a master guitarist, whose innovative accompaniment is acknowledged as being a major breakthrough for guitar in the Irish tradition.
The musical rapport between Hayes and Cahill is so strong that it is often said they appear to be playing one instrument, “working on a seemingly telepathic level,” as CMJ describes it. While Martin pursues a melody, Dennis explores the harmony and rhythms within the tunes. He seems to know intuitively Hayes’ next move, consistently matching it with astonishing skill and grace. Their live performances weave tunes that stretch up to thirty minutes long, in what Hayes describes as “a three-way conversation between the two of us and the music.” Reflecting both the intimacy of their live performance and the exponential power of the duo’s imagination, Hayes and Cahill work off each other like two jazz masters, exploring the tunes, spinning medleys that expand and contract with intensity. “Our allegiance is to the spirit of the moment,” says Hayes, “Our primary wish is that the musical experience be one that lifts our spirits and those of the audience.”
“If your live music rations were limited to a single concert in the entire year, then you'd be either crazy or foolish if you didn’t pass that precious time in the company of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill.” — Irish Times
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Watch Martin and Dennis rip it up above.