On their debut recording, The Great Scottish Latin Adventure, Salsa Celtica brings us another successful world music fusion experiment from the sunny shores of Scotland. The formal structure of Salsa Celtica's eclecticism is unusually straightforward: Fraser Fifield's bagpipes assume the musical niche usually occupied in salsa combos by trumpet. Otherwise, this is excellently performed salsa, albeit performed mostly by Scots. Of particular note is the tightness, depth, and energy of Salsa Celtica's brass section, and their unobtrusive yet ably supportive Caribbean percussion. Solo vocals could be stronger, but are hardly out of line in a genre which emphasizes choral singing.
"Rumba Escocia/Cro Chinn T-Saile" begins with clicking percussion, fiddle and guitar background, fluttering flute, and high-pitched bagpipes, a pleasing mix of Latin and Celtic melodies in a salsa rhythmic base. The pace slows a bit on "El Portabello Malecon," straightforward salsa with dense brass accents, repetitive male chorus, and a swooping whistle figure setting the melody until the eruption of a central brass rave, immediately offset by a quiet piano and flute break. "Milonga for Iona" is a slow, moody, subtly beautiful Latin instrumental led by flute and muted trumpet, simultaneous expressing Celtic and Latin takes on the same melody. For a high-energy fusion of musical styles, "Yo Mi Voy/Maggie's Pancakes" is hard to beat, with its quick salsa driven by a bifurcated brass section, deep on the rhythm and bright on the accent, and a fine break with salsa piano behind fast pipes, undergirded by an elephantine trombone drone. "Carnoustie Albatross" presents a quick instrumental romp, pipes blending seamlessly with the brass melody, trademark octave salsa piano, and a compelling low violin solo by Jenny Gardner.
The Great Scottish Latin Adventure bubbles with the playful exuberance of musicians confident of both their salsa base and its added Celtic elements. And it's every bit as much fun for listeners. - Jim Foley
Salsa Celtica web site: www.salsaceltica.com
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