Wine Of LifeThere are any number of instrumental duos around at the moment, particularly in Scotland where musical alliances are swapped as easily as dance partners at a ceilidh. It helps to keep things fresh of course and I’m sure you can tick off any number of combinations of instruments. Wine Of Life may surprise you, however. Savourna is a distinguished harper with a career stretching back to the 1980s and a penchant for being somewhat diverse, not to say experimental. Saxophonist Steve was a founder member of Salsa Celtica and leads several bands including one dedicated to the music of Captain Beefheart.

So what sort of music do you play on harp and saxophone? Your first inclination would be say “jazz” and there is certainly jazz in here but you have to listen carefully. This isn’t a case of Steve improvising over Savourna’s harp continuo. The majority of tracks are written by Savourna and come from all times and places like, for example, ‘Bookworm’, a slinky bluesy piece written thirty years ago as the theme tune for a BBC Scotland programme. Steve wrote the second track, ‘Tango Mafioso’, and you can almost smell the smoke in the club as Savourna reaches for the lowest strings on her pedal harp.

‘Gamelan’ is a tribute to the Indonesian orchestras with the two musicians exchanging the lead part on harp and soprano sax. No two tracks are alike: ‘Road Of The Loving Heart’, ‘Silverado Squatters’ and ‘La Solitude’ are all inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson and if you’ve never heard a harp imitating a banjo accompanied by a saxophonist on jaw’s harp you’re in for a treat. By ‘Cutting The Chord’ I was drifting away into a reverie, listening for Steve’s flute which puts in an appearance on ‘Molokai’, another RLS inspired composition. One surprise is ‘Maybe Then I’ll Be A Rose’, composed by Savourna with words by Les Barker, a love song with a touch of spiky humour. It was originally recorded for Singing The Storm and later appeared on June Tabor’s Rosa Mundi. In the absence of a vocalist, Savourna and Steve Kettley supply the words.

Wine Of Life is an album full of surprises and beautiful music and you won’t help but marvel at the versatility and skill of two superb musicians.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Road Of The Loving Heart’ – live:

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