Monday, September 08, 2014

Abundance: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas

Abundance: that is the name Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas have chosen for their most recent recording. It is also an idea which informs the tunes they have composed, selected, and gathered for the project.

Fraser plays the fiddle: Haas is a cellist -- the wee fiddle and the big fiddle, as they sometimes call it.

The tunes encompass both traditional pieces and original ones. All are based in the music that flows from Scotland, with, at times, hints and flavours of other lands and other styles included, from jazz to classical to Cape Breton (which, yes, flows from Scotland too, but has its own voice).

What’s especially engaging here is the level of musical conversation between the bright lines of the fiddle and the dark rhythms of the cello, balanced always, turning and dancing and leading down paths expected and unexpected. The opening track, called The Corrie Man, is a tune from Arran which invites visions of lively step dancers, while the pairing of Neil Gow’s Wife and The Old Reel brings in a tinge of classical ideas. There are four tunes which are part of Connie’s Suite -- a commission for a long time friend's birthday which included elements of dance and place important to the honoree, including the intriguingly titled -- and played -- Ouagadougou Boogie. This turns out to be a really fine mix of Celtic, jazz, and African elements, a suggestion of a not so Scottish place place in Africa that’s near Timbuktu.

This is followed on by Braigh Lochiall, which evokes the heart of the Highlands of Scotland, Another tune, The Referendum was composed by Fraser to celebrate the upcoming vote (the referendum vote on Scotland;s independence is about ten days away at this writing) and in honour of Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond’s visit to his fiddle course at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye.

The musical conversations between Fraser on fiddle and Haas on cello center of the music on Abundance. They have invited friends into the story too, though -- several of them musicians you have met here before along the music road. Hanneke Cassel is on piano, James Macintosh handles percussion, Corey DiMario is on bass, Donald Shaw adds accordion, Brittany Haas joins in on fiddle Stefan Amidon is also percussion, Kai Welch and Oscar Utterström sit in on horns. This varied grouping of talents is particularly in evidence on the closing track of the sixteen on the disc, called The Kelburn Brewer.

In their notes, Fraser and Haas remark on the collaboration and community they’ve encountered as they follow the big fiddle and the wee one in their travels. Musical connection is, they suggest, part of the true idea of abundance,. They conclude with this wish: “So here’s to a healthy flourishing of new ideas amongst an open, questioning, listening synergistic group of people that honour the acts of creating and sharing. This album is both a tribute and a thank you to the people we meet along the way. It is a celebration of music and community and possibilities. To the spirit of Abundance!

Photographs of Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas are by Kerry Dexter. They were made at the Celtic Connections Festival with permission of the festival, the artists, and the venue, and are copyrighted. Thank you for respecting this.

You may also wish to see
Highlander's Farewell: Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
Hanneke Cassel: For Reasons Unseen
Scotland's Music: Nicola Benedetti: Homecoming -- A Scottish Fantasy

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