Fraser Fifield Trio

Tanar Records TANCD002

Fraser Fifield seems comfortable working with full band, solo, or in trio format, as here. The fact that the CD was recorded over just two days in January this year lends a feeling of immediacy. Fifield is a great tunesmith, and composed all but two tunes. He takes the instrumental lead (on soprano sax and low whistles), whilst Graeme Stephen (hollow bodied electric guitar) and Stuart Ritchie (drums/percussion) contribute in subtler but equal measure. I feel disappointed that you don’t get a few prominent drum or guitar breaks – you get to expect these from a trio of equally talented musicians.

You sense strong empathy between the players – Stephen’s guitar playing is warm and resonant, and he supports the lead instruments with real understanding. Ritchie is a sensitive and expressive drummer, and lends much to the recording. Fifield’s style is fluid, whether playing soprano sax or low whistle – and it’s good to hear sax being used to interpret Celtic tunes. There are nice switches between sax and whistle throughout – title track Slow Stream being the perfect example.

Elsewhere, strathspeys, jigs and reels are imaginatively interpreted. ‘Strathspey A93’, and ‘Before And After’ are full of pace and vitality. ‘Smoke Signals’ perhaps epitomises this Trio’s potential – dramatic, with great interplay between sax/whistle, guitar and drums. Kaval makes innovative use of Eastern rhythm, whilst ‘One Less Than Too Many’ is a jazz-infused reel. I found the percussion a bit jangly on ‘Snow Angel’, and thought there were a couple of superfluous recorded sounds on ‘Lament For The Children’, but the album overall has a mellow, lyrical, jazzy flow.

‘Slow Stream’ breaks similar ground to David Milligan’s ‘Late Show’ – both albums have Scottish tradition at their heart, but produce exciting results in jazz trio format. This music must work brilliantly at gigs, and holds much appeal for jazz and Celtic music fans alike. It’s a great follow-up to earlier solo release, ‘Honest Water’.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 62 of The Living Tradition magazine.