Wednesday 3 August 2016


CD Review

First Impression

You can't say you don't get your money's worth when it comes to musical journeys with Scottish duo Paul Chamberlain and Michael Haywood as their debut album takes in much of Europe and farther afield while showing absolutely no respect for musical boundaries.

Michael Haywood and Paul Chamberlain
Both musicians are award-winners and come from a classical background but to differing degrees, each has turned to the dark side and ventured into the realm of folk and world music.
Chamberlain plays the accordion and Haywood the sax, fiddle, whistle and clarinet and they have set out to explore the ranges of their instruments in a varied pool of cultural music.
The album opens with a traditional Russian tune, Shalakho which is actually a pair of tunes that scream eastern Europe. The lively bounce of Haywood's fiddle and the pumpah pumpah of his colleagues bellows makes this a wonderful first track. Staying over that side of Europe they continue with another pair of tunes Po Vijnë Krushqit/Gankino Horo the first being a modernised version of a traditional Albanian wedding tune followed by an extremely lively Bulgarian folk dance where it keeps the pace going with the accordion to give it the signature sound, while Haywood, using the clarinet, gives the dance that eastern twang. The musical journey lands in South America for Tanti Anni Prima where the duo have adapted the slow and thoughtful tune with Chamberlain replacing the piano part with his accordion.
The pair hop back to Europe for the next track, Traces of Thrace, which comes with a mash up of Greek, Bulgarian and Turkish influences which are all distinguishable within the piece. The tune does have a fractured quality which adds to the overall feel and contributes to the modern overtones on the traditional score.
Unmistakably Hungarian, the next piece from Brahms, Hungarian Dance No2 in Dm, gives Haywood a chance to let his fiddle skills off the leash as well giving the listener a chance to understand just what a talented musician he really is.
Chamberlain takes centre stage for the traditional Serbian tune Zikino Kolo. It's a dance tune with some real pace and will give anyone a run for their money in trying to keep up with the tempo his bellows set.
The portmanteau titled Afropean is a jazz tune which was written by Courtney Pine and the clarinet and accordion make it a fun tune to listen to. The duo bring the listener back to Hungary for probably one of the most famous pieces associated with the country. Monti's Czardas is a typical gypsy-style dance tune which starts off slowly but soon builds up to get the dancing muscle pumping.
Viking chessmen
They build the tension with the fiddle and accordion to where, if you were in a dance hall, your feet would be itching to get going.
Then they bring it down to start the build up all over again, it's a great piece of music wonderfully played with the occasional whiff of jazz thrown in.
They bring it back to Haywood's homeland in Scotland for a triplet of Gentle Giant, Blue Eel Reel - which Hayward composed - and Pressed For Time.
These three traditional tunes begin with some deliciously light and dancing flute music from Haywood with the accents of staccato sounding breaths added by Chamberlain. The playing just gets better and better as Haywood gets a chance to show what a fine flautist he is and you get out of breath just listening to him.
What follows is another triplet inspired by the Lewis Viking Chessmen from the 12th century which were discovered in the Outer Hebrides. The Chessmen Suite consists of Approaching, Camas Uig and Unmasked which is the interlopers arriving in the isles, Camas Uig is the beach where the chessmen were found and the final part is a celebration of the discovery of the pieces. It has a slow, languorous quality as the tune tells the story of how these chess pieces came to be here in the modern world.
The debut album
France is the next port of call with the duo's version of Tango Pour Claude. This piece of jazz indulgence has a definite French accent and wouldn't be out of place as a soundtrack to a Francois Truffaut film. The accordion especially gives you a feel of Mont Martre with everyone laid back and letting the sound wash over them. The duo's final offering comes in four parts, like a musical cocktail three parts Russian and one part Jewish. Troika, Katyusha, Kalinka and Hava Nagila.
This is a set of tunes which defies your feet to keep still, with the exception of Katyusha which tells of a young woman longing for the return of her lover from war, in places it will sound incredibly familiar to many listeners. It's a fitting end to an eclectic collection of world exploring music.
While many of the tracks are died-in-the-wool traditional tunes Haywood and Chamberlain have achieved their goal of giving them a modern feel without taking away the soul and essence of the music. Their skill as musicians is incredible and for that alone the album is worth listening to.

First Impressions is available now from the duo's website and through download at amazon, iTunes, cdbaby

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