Colin Harper, author of several books on music history, released his first national-level album in March 2016, Sunset Cavaliers – a homage to the musicians and musical eras chronicled in his books. A ‘treasure seeker’ as a music archaeologist, if Harper has a ‘buried treasure’ of his own prior to Sunset Cavaliers it is Titanium Flag – originally a vinyl-length instrumental album, inspired by the history of Arctic exploration, recorded in 2010 and limited to 100 copies. An icy sound-world of guitar, violin, clarinet, flugelhorn, piano and drums, with forays into chamber music, progressive rock and ambient, it defies easy labelling but fires the imagination. It was dedicated to one of Harper’s inspirations, Dutch guitarist/lutenist Jan Akkerman (ex-Focus).
At the very moment of pondering, at his home in Belfast, a remastered edition of Titanium Flag in the wake of Sunset Cavaliers’ warm reviews and airplay, Harper received an invitation, in Dutch, to join someone’s professional network on LinkedIn: Jan Akkerman.
Harper: ‘Suitably inspired – by the karma, not the invitation to join LinkedIn – I emailed Jan with an idea and ‘Greenland: East To West’, inspired by 19th Century Norwegian adventurer Fridtjof Nansen, is the result. Jan’s epic solo is the imagined sound of a man raging against the howling snowstorms of the pre-Victorian Arctic, single-handedly creating the ‘heroic age’ of exploration. It transpires that Jan is still the master of improvisational and inspirational guitar. But I have no intention of joining LinkedIn.’
Harper reassembled the original ‘Titanium Flag orchestra’ – jazz broadcaster/bandleader Linley Hamilton (flugelhorn, trumpet), orchestral musicians Alan McClure (violin) and Rachelle Stewart (clarinet), and céilí band drummer/closet rocker Jim Cuthbertson (drums) –and added Irish jazz pianist/bandleader Scott Flanigan and local bass maestro Ali MacKenzie along with Jan in Volendam and flautist Premik Russell Tubbs (ex-Mahavishnu Orchestra) in New York. Further cyber collaboration, between Belfast and Australia, was going on with producer/recording artist Martin Tinson and guitar legend Martin Cilia. The result is three new pieces of music, added to the start of the album.
Four vocal tracks, recorded during the original Titanium Flag sessions in 2010, are added at the end. Other guests on the album include Phil ‘Shiva’ Jones (ex-Quintessence) and Andy Roberts (ex-Liverpool Scene, Plainsong). The audio was remastered by Denis Blackham and the package comes with a detailed 12-page booklet and a fold-out pair of vintage maps of the Arctic regions. I believe that Titanium Flag is the best thing, musically, I’ve done, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to make it widely available. But I’m also hoping I don’t have any more musical inspiration for a while!’
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Artist’s website: http://colin-harper.com/