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Private Label  CSMUSCD001

Renowned creative collaborator Chris Stout’s involvement with Brazilian musicians, through the Orquestra Scotland Brasil project and many subsequent inter-continental toings and froings, is captured here in the form of an octet concert performance at Celtic Connections 2010.

Stout’s passionate work in synthesising, with classical grace and contemporary innovation, Scottish folk idioms with folk, classical, jazz and modern musical influences from Europe and the East is again evident in this latest stretching avant garde venture. His own versatile fiddle virtuosity is combined with Thomas Rohrer (rabeca, traditional Brazilian fiddle, and saxophone), Catriona McKay (harp), Carlinhos Antunes (guitars and vocals), Ian Stephenson (guitar and melodeon), Rui Barossi and Neil Harland (double bass) and Martin O’Neill (bodhran).

Over seven pieces, at times with a big band feel (reminiscent of composer/arranger Vince Mendoza’s work), they produce fascinating music rich in world references although, obviously, with a strong complement of Brazilian rhythms, styles and inspirations. Three pieces by Antunes are put through the alchemical process along with compositions by Rohrer, Gabriel Levy, and Chris’ own previously recorded Devil’s Advocate (yoked again to Olov Johansson’s captivatingly catchy piece Bambodansarna) and, as a charming quieter passage, Fisherman’s Prayer.

So, we have the essential elements that typify Chris Stout’s work, the wide dynamic range, variable time signatures and complex rhythms, here driven both by melodies and percussion. There are moments of exquisite playing and then some arresting flights of rip-roaring frenzy and helter-skelter live excitement. The Brazilian contingent brings to the party an array of percussive textures, some polyrhythmic density, and use of the voice as part of the rhythmic soundscape. Measured against BBC Alba’s Garage (A’Gharaids) concept, with this degree of adventurous and innovative musical fusion, Stout would be chief mechanic in a Formula One pit area!

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.