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OLIVER SCHROER "Jigzup" Iona IRCD039

With an album cover showing Oliver Schroer taking a generous mouthful from his fiddle neck, you could be forgiven for thinking that this album is the work of a deranged mind! It ain't! This a wonderful album of what I suppose could be called contemporary Canadian-Scottish fiddle playing (if you insist on labels ...), put together with considerable imagination and verve.

Don't think, though, that all the tunes here are either from, or derived from the traditional canon. A large number are, but many are not! There's a neat air-strathspey-reel set, "Far Away by the Sea/Lady Diane Laundy/Seanaghan Kennedy's", but then "The Devil & the Little Faces" is a pretty straight ahead jazz-funk number (I was tempted to say "groove", but, the cliche monitor started flashing!) which, with different instrumentation, could have come from a Crusaders album! "Blow November Wind/Sea of Change" is a haunting piece of impressionism with subtle string quartet voicings. "Roro", derived from a medieval Portuguese tune, uses a glass harmonica and hammered dulcimer (both played by Schroer) as well as the fiddle. I particularly liked the "jazz waltz for portable dialysis machine (pipus uillians)", "If Geese Could Sing", or maybe it was just the mental picture!

The supporting musicians also deserve credit. I counted twenty names in the credits! But, don't think that this means Oliver Schroer hides behind them. Far from it. This man produced his own album, and his stamp is on it!

This is an album of humour and of very considerable musicianship harnessed to produce excellent music. What else could you ask for?

Chris Bartram

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.