Last night I really enjoyed the final show in the tour by this year's group of eight musicians chosen by Making Tracks. It was a constantly engaging evening of honest musical expression by musicians from across Europe (it's not usually restricted to Europe, but Covid made bringing people from the wider world very problematic; indeed doing the project at all this year must have been difficult, with ever-present cancellation risk).
With this sort of thing, musicians chosen by application and gathered for a short residency before setting out on tour rather than having chosen one another, it can often be that individual talents don't get the chance to be expressed and the result can be a worthy but unsatisfying thing. Not so here because, wisely, the individual characters, skills and traditions of each musician were brought out by making the show a series of solos, duets and the occasional trio or quartet rather than attempting to put together an eight-piece band.
Lots of high points from all eight; particularly for me the finely-tuned, inventive work on doholla (bass darbuka) and big frame drums by Belgian percussionist Simon Leleux, the santour playing of Iranian-born German-based Azin Zahedi, and the way Aberdeenshire's Iona Fyfe managed to present such a substantial slice of Scots tradition and language - an unaccompanied solo vocal for 'Mill o' Tifty's Annie', melding Mary Brooksbank's 'Jute Mill Song' with a song from Brazilian singer-guitarist Thamires Tannous, and, with Albanian-born multi-instrumentalist Robert Bisha on piano, making a remarkable jazz-inflected song of Hamish Henderson's poem 'The Flyting of Life and Death'. And the only piece by the whole group, an ambitious acapella finale arrangement of an Albanian song, brought to the project by Bisha, in which they were joined by project director Merlyn Driver and 2019 project musician Luna Silva. Nice venue, too. Comfortable, with good lighting, and excellent sound by sound engineer (and 2019 project santoorist and vocalist), Kaviraj Singh.
Review written by Andrew Cronshaw