Trombonist Annie Whitehead is an intrepid musical adventurer and her collaborator in Northern Lights Airplay, an intriguing fusion of folk and jazz elements, is the master concertina player Alistair Anderson. There are nine pieces in all (they were commissioned by the 2001 Bath International Festival), and each one has its own distinct flavour and colour, though the overriding sense is of benign music of great charm and warmth.
The opening piece, ‘Ancient Dreams, Dark Blue’, is a collective performance with a mellow repeated melodic line and individual variations reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim’s gentle African soundscapes. ‘Midnight Air’ begins with trombone and concertina in unison playing a lovely elegiac melody; when the other instruments join in the ravishing violin lead voice seems to illuminate the whole performance – violinist Chris Stout is quite a find.
This is immediately followed by the dynamic ‘Midnight Reel’, with its jazzy rhythms, violin and concertina in unison and a funky muted trombone solo. ‘In All Languages’ is over 13 minutes long and heaves and kicks with a mind of its own, combining with haunting melodies, strong rhythms and murmuring sonorities. The last piece, ‘Hopscotch’, is a joyous riot of contrapuntal lines.