On International Bagpipe Day, Jazz North East presents:
Low whistle, saxophone, and bagpipes and original compositions with a unique blend of influences – Scottish folk is present but also Jazz, Indian, Balkan and more. Over a 30 year career Fraser has performed with many influential bands from the Scottish folk scene and released a series of acclaimed solo recordings. He is currently Traditional Artist in Residence for the University of Edinburgh.
“An outstanding product of the Scottish jazz-folk scene who at one moment can blow a low whistle like Charlie Parker through ‘Ko-Ko’ steaming his way and at the next knock out an air on a sax like a Highland traditionalist” ~ Jazzwise
Secret Path Trio
The low whistle is a simple instrument that in the hands of Fraser Fifield can deliver infinite, deeply felt personal expression. Most often associated with Scottish and Irish traditional music, on The Secret Path the low whistle assumes the role of lead instrument voicing bold, fearlessly searching melodies.
Fifield is a virtuoso. Schooled in both the Highland bagpipe tradition and the soprano saxophone, he has developed a technique on the whistle that borrows from those and other instruments but is all his own voice. He is aided by the addition of one extra tone hole on the underside of the whistle that opens up possibilities for a greater musical range.
“I see the whistle as a blank canvas,” says Fifield. “It has its associations but to me it’s a universal instrument. I think all musicians ultimately want to play the music they would like to hear and it’s been my goal to be able to play music on the whistle that isn’t constrained by a diatonic structure.”
Over the past ten years Fifield has worked on achieving this aim, helped by his domestic situation. Living in a flat in Edinburgh for much of that time, he felt sure his neighbours would be unimpressed by the sound of the pipes or a saxophone intruding into their day or night. The low whistle, as well as requiring little physical work, unlike the pipes and saxophone, is an instrument that can be picked up at any time and played quietly so that ideas can be explored into unsociable hours if the muse strikes.
“It’s been a gradual process of experimentation and that continues,” says Fifield, whose determination to take the whistle into situations that no whistle player should really encounter has led to him working across the world. Indian, Eastern European, Spanish and South American music have all presented challenges that he has met successfully.
On The Secret Path he is joined by two musicians with a similarly adventurous approach. Paul Harrison on keyboards is most often associated with jazz but is equally at home in Brazilian and electronic music and drummer Tom Bancroft is also from the jazz world but with experience in African music and with the Grit Orchestra, which was formed to celebrate the work of Scottish folk-dance music pioneer Martyn Bennett.
“Paul and Tom are both fantastic musicians,” says Fifield. “I knew that they would respond and make the music come alive. I wrote arrangements that gave them enough detail without providing too much information so that there was space for the three of us to express ourselves.”
The title track is named after the 1930s book through which the British philosopher Paul Brunton introduced the Western world to the Indian guru Ramana Maharshi, a figure who has informed Fifield for a number of years. There is further reference to the East in Gita, which is the Sanskrit word for song.
“All the tracks were written in December 2022 with the exception of East of Leith, which had been forming in my mind for some time but finally came into shape as I was preparing the others,” says Fifield. “There are influences from throughout my musical career – I’ve long had a fascination for the kaval (a Bulgarian end-blown flute) for example – but essentially, I wanted to give a snapshot of where I am with the low whistle at the present time. Most of the tunes are concise and were recorded as live in two or three takes to keep them fresh.”
“Album of the Year ” – Stuart Letford (Bagpipe News)
Children and young people under 16 years old may attend events accompanied by an adult (age over 18). They are not allowed to enter the premises after 9pm and they must leave the premises by midnight. Under 16s are not allowed to purchase soft drinks, but they may consume soft drinks bought for them by their accompanying adult.
16 and 17 year olds are allowed to attend events unaccompanied by an adult and they may purchase soft drinks. They must leave the premises by midnight.