Celtic Connections: LoLanders featuring Fraser Fifield and Oene van Geel


Royal Concert Hall
Tuesday January 22nd 2019

This concert was made possible thanks to ‘Going Dutch’, a project put together by the UK
and Ireland-wide Jazz Promotion Network with funding mainly from Dutch Performing Arts, and an additional contribution from Creative Scotland. Great gigs like this do indeed all flower from a creative partnership and a good idea meeting a source of funding. The concert marked the culmination of some days of playing together, but the project will continue for 6 more months, so it marks a significant investment in the future. Moreover Fraser Fifield is influential in more than one musical sphere in Scotland, so we can look forward to hearing the benefits of what will happen in the next 6 months for a long time to come. The Scottish musicians involved are Fraser Fifield on low whistle and small pipes (though he is also known as a saxophonist), Graeme Stephen on guitar, and Hardeep Deerhe on tabla. Their Dutch LoLander comrades are Oene van Geele on viola, Mark Haanstra on bass, and Udo Demandt on percussion. At least half of the band are also significant composers. So an unusual and very impressive line up, and one which pulls together an already entwined history of collaborations from its members. At the outset I should say how deftly the tabla and percussion fitted together, producing a marvellously lively foundation for a rhythm section which, along with the bassist, sounded as if they had been playing together for years.

The evening had started with the Scottish based Fergus MacCreadie trio who took us on a
journey full of melody and exploration. The drums of Stephen Henderson and the bass of
David Bowden combined securely and effortlessly and each number provided easily enough melodic charm and harmonic interest so that, as a listener, I felt more than happy to follow the subsequent explorations wherever they wanted to go. Maybe a trio can afford each other space, as keyboard, bass and drums have little need to worry about crowding out the others, or maybe these musicians are just very adept at storytelling. Either way this was the perfect band to introduce the sextet who were to follow. Every number they played was a winner, so it’s also difficult to pick out especial highlights. But just to prove I was there and I was listening, I’ll pick out the unison bass and keyboard melody line introducing the second number as being noticeably effective, as well as the three nameless new numbers before the warmth and spaciousness of ‘An Old Friend.’ Do yourselves a favour and either buy the album ‘Turas’ or go and see the Fergus McCreadie Trio soon. Or even better, both.

The only slight bump in the concert’s road came at the very start of the LoLanders own set, when I missed the spaciousness and easy confidence of what had come before as the energy of the bigger band seemed to jump up like a slightly over friendly dog. But it all settled down very quickly. Or was it that I woke up? Probably both, and the inventiveness and variety of the LoLanders set soon proved, and remained fascinating. It also helps when you have a really charismatic personality on stage like Oene van Geele. He relished every chance to attack a syncopated beat, his solos took flight and his spontaneous jumps landed perfectly. This liveliness certainly acted as a visual focus for the group, as did the drums and percussion. And let’s not underestimate the visual drama, the dance, if you like, of making music. Much in the music was mercurial as in, ‘Chase it, catch it’. Spoiler alert – it got away!

Now I’m not a guitar expert, but Graeme Stephen’s instrument looks and sounds like quite a character. Never once did you wonder why there were so many notes happening. Instead Stephen showed his compositional sense and feeling for the drama of the music throughout. Fraser Fifield’s low whistle and Oene’s viola were also a vibrant combination. Fifield also occasionally and very successfully brought out the small pipes and with them came a couple of tunes from the traditional repertoire. All in all this was a great energetic display of wonderful jazz from a well mixed group of instruments, throughout which the inventiveness and lyricism of Fifield’s low whistle shone. I hope to hear more from them all again soon.

Reviewer: Catherine Eunson



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