FROOTS MAGAZINE JAN/FEB 2008


ALASDAIR FRASER & NATALIE HAAS

In the Moment Culburnie Records CUL122


Alasdair Fraser is among the most accomplished Scottish fiddlers alive today. He has made numerous excellent CDs: notably with Paul Machlis and Skyedance. Then he formed a duet with the brilliant, classically trained cellist Natalie Haas and their sublime debut album Fire & Grace won the 2004 Scots Trad Album of the Year award. In the Moment is the long-awaited follow-up to Fire & Grace.

You might think that traditional fiddle and cello is an unlikely pairing. But this elegant combination is not new. As Alasdair explained at Glasgow's Celtic Connections, much eighteenth and nineteenth century traditional music was performed by cello and fiddle in the music halls of northeast Scotland.

In the Moment will please al of Alasdair and Natalie's existing fans and win them fresh admirers. Some will prefer this album to Fire & Grace for it's greater warmth, originality and broader range of influences. Where the first album contained mainly traditional tunes, the second album is mostly Alasdair and Natalie's own compositions. This allows them the freedom to use a wider musical palette and to create a lusher sound. There are jazzy and classical nuances within the traditional Scottish-American flavours, and the music often has a majestic film score quality, despite being layed by only two instruments! The dramatic rhythmic cello accompaniment to the fiddle's soaring melodies is reminiscent of Aaron Copland and Elmer Bernstein. While most of the album is fiddle and cello duet, piano is brought in beautifully for Miss Laura Risk, and piano and pipes join in on the final track.

Standout tracks include Salamanca (an exquisite melody and poignant counterpoint that switches from fiddle to cello and back again) and Natalie Mariah (a throat-catchingly gorgeous tune composed by Alasdair as a musical portrait of Natalie). I both tracks Alasdair and Natalie use the advantage of original composition to deliver that extra element of surprise and unpredictability to keep you enthralled.

The playing throughout this album is characterised by a distilled intensity and breathtaking sensitivity. This music elicits powerful emotions. Some film director really should commission Fraser & Haas to compose the soundtrack to an epic western in the vein of Last of the Mohicans or Heaven's Gate. Are you reading this, Mr Ridley Scott? Mr Ang Lee?

www.greentrax.com, check out the track on this month's covermount CD.

Paul Matheson