Fraser Fifield & Graeme Stephen "Esotero" 
Own Label, 2013

Artist Video


Fraser Fifield should be familiar from Old Blind Dogs,[43] Salsa Celtica,[54] numerous other groups, and three or four of his own previous CDs. On this relatively short album, Fraser plays low whistle, border pipes and soprano sax, combining Scottish and other traditional music with his own brand of cool jazz. His equally versatile collaborator Graeme Stephen plays what looks like a semi-acoustic guitar in styles from folky to freaky. As this duo put it themselves, "Gone are the days of neatly categorising music as folk, jazz, or whatever else." Esotero is a prime example, mixing Eastern and Western European traditions, jazz and trad, new music and old. Even the lines between the tracks are blurred, with most of the album presented as a seamless whole, and one or two pieces specifically written as short links. All the material on this recording was either adapted from the Scottish tradition or composed by Fifield and Stephen. The entire recording, from the title track to the final Cockerel in the Creel, is perfectly played and flawlessly produced. 
At the gentler end of this pair's repertoire, the complex air Esotero and the simpler but equally stunning Secret Histories are eerily evocative on low whistles. Chase It Catch It and The Bank of Time have much harder edges, with aggressive piping and some modern Middle Eastern rock guitar. The sax tunes are sort of in between, and there are also a couple of punchier whistle numbers, especially the final pair of reels. All seven of the big tracks here are mini masterpieces, and each is a different delight. The two short interludes are fascinating too. Almost all ofEsotero should appeal to anyone fond of modern pipes and whistles, whether Scottish, Irish or further east. Things do get seriously jazzy in one or two places, but to quote another great performer, it's all in the best possible taste. I'm already looking forward to Fraser's next musical project. 
© Alex Monaghan