Mr McFall’s Chamber

Born in Dirt an’ Din


THIS latest album from the astonishingly versatile chamber group established by violinist Robert McFall nearly 25 years ago is another vibrant new direction, as is their way. Expanded to a nonet (mostly) with SCO principal clarinet Maximiliano Martin lead soloist on most of the music and Alec Frank-Gemmill’s horn on one track, Paul Harrison adds keyboards and Stuart Brown drums – both band-leaders in their own right in the jazz world.

Brown brings his expertise in the music of Raymond Scott, whose music sound-tracks cartoons and is here presented in new arrangements by McFall, interwoven between commissions for his group. Harrison provides the album’s opener, Consequences, as well as the hugely atmospheric title track, as funky an evocation of shipbuilding on the Clyde as you are ever likely to hear.

Mike Kearney, keyboard player in Edinburgh’s Katet, adds more funky stuff to the mix with his composition The Phoenix, while two saxophonists, Tim Garland and Martin Kershaw, add more atmosphere, with music that showcases those wind soloists from the classical side. Kershaw’s Far Vistas and Closing In are programmed three tracks apart, but very much cut from the same cloth, using the wide range of talent on hand to explore landscapes of sound, while Garland’s 15-minute suite ExtraPollination is a showcase for Martin that finds its inspiration in the London Underground, the Bell Rock lighthouse and flamenco guitar. His overall title, though, exactly describes what the McFalls do: this group is once again finding new strains of fruitfulness by seeding their music with remarkable imported ingredients. Forget which genre it might be filed under, this is one of the most fascinating and accomplished collections of music to appear this year.

Keith Bruce