The Cauld Wind Blaws Big with Undivided
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
EVEN by Celtic Connections standards, this was quite an undertaking: two large scale projects that enhanced and celebrated traditional music in quite different ways. Undivided matched the tradition's forms and players in what amounted to a classic jazz big band lining up alongside whistle/flute, fiddles, accordion, guitars and bodhran as flautist Michael McGoldrick and trumpeter Neil Yates finally explored the common ground they'd discovered they shared 25 years ago.
The results were vibrant, exciting and richly coloured, with lovely warm trombones underscoring McGoldrick's whistle on one piece and Yates' highly descriptive writing evoking a harbour scene complete with birds and waves as well as dancers negotiating an ill-conceived ceilidh tent on Dancing on a Slope. Undivided was an apt name, too, for a happy marriage of musical styles that allowed some mighty jazz soloing - cue saxophonist Paul Towndrow - and in its final incarnation sounded admirably close to French marvels l'Occidentale de Fanfare's potent brass-folk brew.
Finlay MacDonald and Chris Stout added an orchestra, a pipe band, harp and Scots and Gaelic song to the close-knit pipes, fiddle and guitar relationship that made their The Cauld Wind Blaws album one of 2013's traditional music glories, but still managed to stay true to the same ethos. Orchestra and pipe band proved an extraordinarily well matched ensemble and if the sound was indeed big, the music was often tremendously mobile, as witness Stout and Catriona McKay's fantastic livewire fiddle and harp feature, and introduced a moment of wonderful intimacy when Darren Maclean filled the auditorium with just his magnificent singing and a Gaelic song of heartbreaking tenderness.