Album Review / Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas: Syzygy

I had the great pleasure of experiencing Alasdair and Natalie live a few years ago when they played a couple of gigs in Finland. It was a charming event, with Alasdair’s stories, their musical chemistry and, of course, amazing playing.

That set leaned pretty much toward trad and Celtic but that has never been the dominant genre on their albums. Especially their more recent albums are almost globetrotting, with 2017’s Ports of Call openly declaring a international approach in style and choice of tunes.

With Syzygy, Fraser & Haas have fine-tuned the fiddle/cello combination to their perhaps most sophisticated incarnation yet. The tunes are all written for this album, with main focus on a Celtic-Scandi approach spiced with some contintental European flavors.

As the playing is of the highest possible level and the pieces are at the same time folksy and intricate, I believe this is the most fully realized hybrid of folk and classical chamber music I have encountered. You can take this set to a trad fest and a classical recital and it would be easily at home in both.

A huge plus in music like this is the feeling of joy it transmits. Listening to this, I remember the smiles on their faces as they were on stage, communicating through music. That same feeling comes through in these recordings as well and lifts my spirits.

My favorite moments on Syzygy are the very Scandi opening pair of A. Lien of Alesund and Sweglish, Modally Challenged (I’d love to learn where that title came from!), the nicely grooving Antisyzygy and the neo-classical The Dreamer and The Jester. But, of course, it’s all A+ stuff, all the way.

***
Syzygy is available in a variety of formats aon the Culburnie Records web store:
https://culburnie.com/alasdairandnatalie.html

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