Colin Steele's Stramash

*****

QUEEN'S HALL, EDINBURGH

ANY lingering doubts on how effectively the music of trumpeter Colin Steele would translate from his quintet to the expanded ten-piece Stramash were instantly dispelled in the opening sequence, a re-arranged version of Twilight Dreams coupled with a new variation, The Recurring Dream.

The assumption that the addition of a string section of fiddles and cello (and occasionally viola) and piper Rory Campbell would emphasise the folk-derived melodies in Steele's music was only partially true. Much of the writing for the strings (arranged by pianist David Milligan) suggested classical rather than folk music, and the fiddlers were forced to deal with melodic and harmonic territory well beyond their usual conventions.

Chris Stout, Charlie McKerron, Aidan O'Rourke and Su-a Lee took the challenges in their stride, and their contributions added a new dimension to Steele's music, both in the rearranged versions of older material that filled the first set and in his new compositions after the break.

The music refused to conform to genre expectations for much of the time, but oscillated creatively within a triangle loosely bounded by jazz, folk and classical sources. Older tunes like The Journey Home, Louis's First Gig (led on Highland pipes rather than trumpet), or the wistful A Wee Prayer emerged in distinctive new colours, while the new tunes (some still untitled) made an immediate and compelling impression. Mission accomplished, and in glorious style.