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New album ‘Strand’ released today

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Delighted to present to you my brand new album Strand.

an inviting, contrasting weave of warm, incisive melody and textural detail” Adrian Pallant

“on this, his debut album, he brings in influences from jazz, post-rock, boogie-woogie, metal and avant-garde music, producing a gorgeous suite of instrumentals.” Harry Harris, The Skinny

This is a collection of music I’ve been putting together for the past year with some amazing musicians (Hamish Napier, Adam Sutherland, Tom Gibbs, Ben Macdonald & Scott Mackay). We recorded the album at GloWormRecording studio in Glasgow with great engineer Iain Hutchison in December 2016. It was mixed and mastered in Brooklyn NY by Michael Perez-Cisneros (known for his work with the likes of Gilad Hekselman and Julian Shore). I’m so happy with how it’s turned out and hope you like it!

coverThe cover art is a painting entitled ‘Into the Blue‘ by wonderful artist Jane McMillan from Aberdeenshire. Jane draws inspiration from the chaos of nature and the drama of the Scottish coastline. As the album draws on themes associated with our coast I felt this was a perfect match.

You can order the album from my bandcamp page (this is the only place to purchase physical copies):

http://bit.ly/2ooeMCv

It’s also available digitally from: Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music and Amazon

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Big Music Society

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The Big Music Society is a project aimed at furthering piobaireachd or Ceol Mor (the classical music of the scottish highland bagpipe) and bringing it into new settings and on to different stages. Mostly an art form that now resides purely on the competition field, it was once a music that served a vital purpose in celebrating occasions, lamenting loses and marking important events in time.  I was delighted to be approached by the creators of the project, Calum Maccrimmon and John Mulhearn, to help orchestrate some of these tunes for string quartet and world renowned bagpiper Murray Henderson. It was a real learning curve for me, one in which allowed me to get really deep into the music. Through the guidance of Murray, Calum and John I attempted to draw out the intrinsic character of the pieces and amplify the emotional effect of the melodies through harmony. It was also interesting for me to look at the rhythmical aspects of these tunes, as they generally exist outside of any timing restraints, so how can you put these tunes into some kind of meter?

Read more about the project: www.pipesdrums.com/article/big-music-society-plans-to-create-new-opportunities-for-ceol-mor/

At the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards we were given the opportunity to perform one of the pieces that really came together well (Lament for Hugh). The performance features Murray Henderson on pipes, Calum and John on Vocals, myself on Bass, Megan Henderson and Mhairi Mackinnon on violin and Susan Appelbe on Cello. It was broadcast on BBC Alba and you can watch the full piece over here:

http://bbc.in/28Jxb5g

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Into 2015

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Happy new year to all!

The Buck, Cabrach

Great boxing day walk up the Buck (Cabrach).

Hope you had a braw festive time, I certainly enjoyed a couple of weeks down time (eating drinking and walking mostly) and capped it off with a couple of fun shows; the Arisaig Christmas Dance with Dàimh-mor (acoustic gaelic rap bonanza) and a  great new years eve gig at the Edinburgh Street Party with Breabach. Here we are below (photo from Mark Brown).

Photo Mark Drown - https://twitter.com/Mr_Mark_Brown

Batteries are now recharged and ready for the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. This year I am lucky enough to be performing with a number of amazing artists. It’s always a fun & rewarding challenge to learn a ton of new music, all of which is performed within the space of a few days, as well as keeping the pace with whatever late night goings on there may be.

First off I’m going to be working with fellow Breabach band mates Calum & James at the Crossing the Minch show (17/01/15 @ Mitchell Theatre), a celebration of the music of piper and composer Donald Macleod. Then the following week I’ll be joining Michelle Burke for her Step into my parlour gig at the Old Fruitmarket (21/01/15). Breabach also play the Old Fruitmarket (22/01/15) where we will be joined by our Maori friend & Boomerang Collaborator – Horomona Horo.

I’m excited to be standing in with Inge Thomson’s band for a performance of her beautiful piece Da Fishing Hands. This will be performed on 23/01/15 at the Tron Theatre. Have a listen, it’s lovely – www.ingethomson.com

Ross Ainslie is one of this years New Voices composers and I’m chuffed to be performing his new music alongside a band of great musicians (Hamish Napier, Laura Beth Salter, Gordy Duncan, Matheu Watson, John Sommerville, Laura Jane Wilkie & Ali Hutton). Come see the show at 1pm on 25/01/15!

Culminating the festival for me, on the 31st I’ll be joining ‘boss of the guitar’ Ian Carr and the Various Artists at the Strathclyde Suite to perform music form his awesome new album. Have a listen and come to the gig because it will be fun.

Then I will sleep for a few days. It’s set to be an exciting year with more from Breabach, Ross Ainslie, the Big Music Society and more. Stay tuned. Now I’m going to get back to practising in my newly tidied out office, tidy for how long I don’t know but it feels good for now.

J

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Martyn Bennett Prize 2014

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Still in shock after being awarded this years Martyn Bennett Prize for traditional music composition. Put on by the Queens Hall, Edinburgh (with support from Creative Scotland and the Traditional Music Forum) it provided the opportunity for composers living in Scotland to write a new piece of music in the traditional idiom for a set group of musicians. MD’d by amazing violinist Seonaid Aitkin, the band also featured Graeme Stephen, Fraser Fifield, Colin Train, Andrew Sharkey and Laura Baxter. I’ve been listening to Fraser and Graeme play together for a long time; they were one of my first introductions to the Scottish traditional scene and demonstrated to me how you could push the boundaries of the style, so it really was a joy to write for them.

After an initial first round, the finalists were then selected for a concert that took place on the 14th October. It was a brilliant & really diverse line up of writers: Christopher Bradley, Stuart Macpherson, Aidan O’Rourke and Rob Taylor. Amazing stuff all round & I don’t envy the judges (Jim Sutherland, Sally Beamish and Hector Macinnes) having to decide. Aidan’s music has been an inspiration of mine for a while now, so it was a great feeling to have my piece performed alongside his. You can hear each of the works online now:

The competition provided me with a real impetus to create something. Writing music has been a bit of non-starter this year for me and when this opportunity arose I had to jump at the chance to pressure myself to work! This is one of the great aspects of the prize in providing an outlet for composers to present new pieces, furthering the repertoire of scottish traditional music, in honour of one of the most ground breaking scottish composers/musicians of recent times, Martyn Bennett. The whole experience has definitely given me encouragement to pursue some more substantial original projects, so I’m planning on using the award to help fund an album of my own in 2015. Thanks again to everyone involved!

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