There are so many new instrumental albums coming out these days that, if you want to stand out, you have to be different. There is no mileage in banging out a few dance sets interspersed with a couple of slow airs. Firelight Trio are certainly different. They comprise Gavin Marwick of, among many others, Whirligig and Belleville Rendezvous on fiddle; Ruth Morris of several Gavin Marwick bands on nyckelharpa and klezmer expert Phil Alexander of Moishe’s Bagel on accordion and piano. Their combination of backgrounds and instruments give them plenty of scope for experiment.
So we start off in old Bucharest with the traditional ‘Chasen Senem’ which immediately brings to mind old black and white films. That is teamed with two Gavin’s tunes, ‘Filthy Lucre’ and ‘The Latvians March’, and Firelight Trio don’t do anything by halves – this set comes in at almost seven minutes. That’s followed by two jolly jigs, ‘En Charette/The Last Minute’, both by Marwick who shares the bulk of the writing with Alexander.
‘Prinsens Polska’ is one of major production numbers in the album, weighing in at eight-and-a-half minutes. That’s a long time to dance the polka but this is a stately measure more suited to the drawing room than the dance tent and all three players can take a turn at leading the music. ‘The Scottish Set’ is a medley of four traditional tunes beginning with the wonderfully titled ‘Miss Hog Of Newliston’, written by one Robert Mackintosh. I must admit that I did look up the origin of the tune but I’m not much the wiser.
The second big number comprise two tunes. The first, ‘The Radical Road’ by Alexander is built around his piano with Ruth Morris’ nykelharpa initially taking the lead. It’s a lovely piece paired with ‘Roeselare’ a dramatic tune by Marwick which was written for the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele and, naturally features his fiddle over the piano. The trio celebrate more corners of the world in the next three tracks. First comes ‘Balkan Polska’. Then Alexander’s charming ‘The Berlin Jig’ and finally, from Ukraine, the traditional ‘Motl Reyder’s Klezmer Set’.
‘Schicki Micki’ and ‘Acrobats Bridge’ are two more tunes by Alexander and ‘The Wages Of Gin’ (love that title) and ‘Java St Andrews’ are another pair by Marwick. Finally, the gentle piano piece ‘Rooftop Chorale’ by Alexander was written for a film but left on the cutting room floor in favour of a bit of Debussy. Them’s the breaks, I suppose.
Firelight Trio have certainly made an impression with their first album. It’s packed with energy and memorable tunes and you can’t ask for much more.
Artists’ website: www.firelighttrio.co.uk
‘Balkan Polska’ – live:
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