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CHRIS NORMAN ENSEMBLE "The Caledonian Flute" Boxwood Music BOX 902

The name Chris Norman should be familiar from Scottish supergroup Skyedance. He's also well known in North America as a soloist specialising in Baroque and traditional flute music. Here he is joined by guitarist Andy Thurston, percussionist Simeon Darley Chapin (no relation), and James Blachly on string bass. The material is mostly obscure, often gleaned from 18th-century manuscripts and earlier sources, but some of it is still part of the mainstream Scottish repertoire: the breathtaking air Port Atholl, the country dance Meg Merrilees, and the reel Arthur's Seat. Better known as a Northumbrian pipe tune, Go To Berwick Johnny is double-tracked on flute and small pipes to stunning effect. The big strathspey Tullochgorum is another stunner, with virtuoso variations: this must be a real showstopper live.

While one or two tracks have a distinctly Renaissance feel, the majority are modern arrangements with more than a touch of jazz. I'm not a great fan of jazz-folk crossover, but it seems to work every time on this recording. Chris Norman's classical background means an attention to detail and a level of technical perfection which can be slightly clinical: the accompanists counter that with plenty of swing, and when the flute cuts loose as in the distinctly funky Skye Jigs set there are very few people who can compete. You'll find plenty of neglected treasures here. The gorgeous Lend Me Your Loom is one, complete with 17th-century inuendo. The Dram Shell is another, a reel from the 1816 Fraser Collection with an interesting etymology. For those unfamiliar with piobaireachd, the flute arrangement of The Duke of Athol's Salute will be a rare treat with its formal variations and haunting melody. All in all, this is a CD well worth seeking out, from or specialist shops.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 52 of The Living Tradition magazine.