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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Gadgemo GAD 001 CD



  1. The Recurring Dream
  2. Steele's Reels
  3. Farewell My Love
  4. The Bletherer
  5. Boat to Islay
  6. Shindig at the Lochside
  7. The Girl with the Shiver
  8. Simpson's Jig
  9. Sunset Over Loch Indaal
  10. Steak and Whisky, 5am
  11. View from the Round Church
  12. Louis' First Gig
  13. The Journey Home
  14. A Wee Prayer

Colin Steele - Trumpet
Phil Bancroft - Saxes
Mairi Campbell - Fiddle, viola
Catriona MacDonald, Aidan O'Rourke - Fiddles
Rory Campbell - Pipes, whistles
Su-a Lee - Cello
Dave Milligan - Piano
Aidan O'Donnell - Double bass
Stu Ritchie - Drums.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stramash as "an uproar, state of noise and confusion; a 'row'" and also "a state of ruin, a smash". This may not fill the potential listener with confidence, although the opening track of the CD is reassuringly placid and tuneful, although it is more in the vein of folk music than jazz. This may come as a surprise to those who have heard Colin Steele's previous albums, which were basically in the jazz idiom despite some infusions of folk influences.

Now the folk influence seems to have taken over almost completely, with Colin importing several Scottish folk fiddlers, a piper and a classical cellist. The fiddles dominate The Bletherer, which won a songwriting prize for Colin even though it sounds very like a hundred other Celtic reels. Colin's trumpet is only heard in scattered fragments almost drowned out by the folk instruments.

On the next track, Boat to Islay, Rory Campbell's pipes take centre stage in a swaying melody that allows Steele's trumpet a more prominent role. And Shindig at the Lochside gives Dave Milligan the opportunity for an expansive piano solo. Cello and double bass harmoniously introduce The Girl with the Shiver but Colin Steele sounds like a brass-band player rather than a jazzman.

Simpson's Jig is a very folky dance, with a nice rising chromatic middle section. Phil Bancroft's saxes get some solo space. Sunset over Loch Indaal has Colin Steele's trumpet and Phil Bancroft's sax playing an atmospheric theme over a near-classical string section. This segues into Steak and Whisky, 5am, on which trumpet and sax revel in a jigging tune inspired by Colin's early-morning activities on a visit to Islay. View from the Round Church was also inspired by Islay.

These first eleven tracks might be called Steele's "Islay Suite", as the remainder are arrangements of some pieces previously recorded by Steele's groups. Louis' First Gig is introduced by the pipes and includes a reflective piano solo. The Journey Home features the traditional instruments and some more fine piano from Dave Milligan, plus adventurous trumpet from Colin Steele. On this track and others, Stu Ritchie's drumming manages to bridge the gap between jazz and folk. The CD closes with A Wee Prayer - a heartfelt elegy.

Altogether this is an intriguing and dynamic album. The one problem I have with it is its position on a jazz site, when so much of it is much closer to folk music. Blends of jazz with other musical styles can be invigorating - like Gary Burton's mixture of jazz and country music on Tennessee Firebird - but here the jazz side of things is in danger of being overwhelmed.


Tony Augarde 

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