Bain and Cunningham DVD
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Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham
Another Musical Interlude
Aditi[image] DVD (

cd cover Aly Bain and Phil Cunningham: two grandmasters of traditional music. With their intricate playing and their cross chat, here are a couple of consummate musicians who know not just how the other plays, but how the other thinks. This is a record of their performance in Inverness on the last night of their 12th annual tour.

The show opens with couple of Cape Breton tunes, a "Scott Skinner" in all its improvised glory and a reel; a foretaste of what is to come - accordion and fiddle playing in unison, adding harmonies, accompanying each other and taking solo spots. They are as at home on eastern European, old-timey American, French and Scandinavian tunes as they are on the Shetland, Scottish and Irish ones. Good music and good musicianship know no boundaries.

Cunningham makes particularly good use of the different voicings of his instrument. Although accordion is not my favorite instrument, in his hands it takes on new life. He demonstrates its versatility and range with warmth and skill as his fingers dance lazily across the keyboard and buttons. Bain's fiddle playing is exceptional. He creates great feeling and vibrancy as he explores the melodies. There are few who can match him and he ranks amongst the best fiddlers in any genre, possibly at any time. He learned from the best and has taken his art to an even higher level.

The beauty of their performance lies in the relationships, the togetherness in the playing and their obvious friendship. Although playing on a stage in front of an audience, they create an intimate atmosphere, almost as though the audience is sitting in their home and enjoying a chat and a session. This homespun feeling is still there even on the more elaborate interpretations.

Cunningham is full of stories, Bain adds his commentary. Nothing is sacred as they talk about music, friends, places, bodily functions, Cunningham's doctorate, Cunningham's heart problems and more. The audience is enthralled, hanging on every word and every note of the evening.

The production is simple as it focuses on the two men on stage, with periodic cuts to the audience and to countryside scenes. The occasional close-ups are either intended to be somewhat artistic or are amateurish, I'm not sure which, but they leave a feeling of slight discomfort. And the lighting is awkward - more the dull colors than anything else, making the pair look a little pasty - though overall these minor faults don't detract from the show.

The whole concert lasts almost one and a half hours, yet time flies. Other options on the DVD include biographies of both musicians, a discography and addresses of relevant websites. But there is also a little gem which, although duplicating much of the concert, is worth watching: a 30-minute documentary, giving more background and insight into the performers.

Another Musical Interlude is a fascinating, entertaining DVD, demonstrating the remarkable skills of two exceptional musicians along with the telepathy that seems to exist between them. It's the kind of performance you can watch again and again. - Jamie O'Brien

Note: this CD, while produced in Europe, is formated in NTSC video, multi-region code, so North Americans will have no video problems.

CD available from cdRoots

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