Daniel and Emma Reid – Life Continuum

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5

Sweden-based duo, couple Daniel and Emma Reid perform songs, self-penned tunes and traditional material from both Scandinavia and the British Isles. The pairs playing is beautifully matched and striking. The choice of instruments, with Daniels’ Saxophones and Flute twinning with Emma’s Fiddles means the sounds and arrangements are always fresh and engaging. “Alice from Morko” brings together Baritone Saxophone and Fiddle, the instruments swoop and dance together perfectly. Freed from the percussive beat of Bass and Drums all the jazz associations fall away. The saxophone works as a Folk melody instrument, both instruments carry a pulsing rhythm. There is an ECM Jan Garbarek feel to Daniels long languid notes and a great quality of space. Fluttering Soprano Saxophone and a high notes on the fiddle on “Troll Doctor” create a bright melody that is the duetting instruments blurring together beautifully. Life Continuum Baritone Saxophone and Fiddle, with great sustained Baritone notes at the start. Both instruments filled the space and had great presence. Superb contrast between the plucked fiddle notes and the over-layed Baritone and Soprano Saxophones. In the hands of masters all instruments sound amazing, the sense of space conjuring memories of Paul Horn’s classic Taj Mahal recordings where he plays into the sustain of the space. “Hav Av Blatt” gives more room for Emma’s stunning fiddle against Daniel’s lyrical piano. The resonant keyboard melody is delightful, but we are drawn to the burr and slurred passion of Emma Reid’s fiddle which is just sublime a contrast to the piano lullaby. “Silly Ian” and the instrumental passage on “Golden Slumbers” are as pure and sharp as forest sunlight, with both instruments delivering a high register melodies that are arresting. Emma Reid discovered the Thomas Dekker poem before discovering that the Beatles also used its words. Emma’s vocals are a double tracked delight and in no way nod to Abbey Road. The final Soprano Saxophone and Accordion melody on “Golden Slumbers” is also a delight. The recording of the album is just top notch, with the instruments given room to breathe every note stretches out and flowers. “Keep You in Peace” a perfect lullaby and ‘warm glow’ concert closer if I ever heard one, is an example of the duos less is more and less is best approach. The pair’s instruments and duetting vocals sound like a finely tuned orchestra, anything more would be ugly and superfluous. Emma’s closing tune “Ensamheten” is a brooding soaring masterpiece where the sound of fiddle, Baritone Saxophone and Accordion deliver a huge rumbling landscape of sound that fills your senses. A folksy take on Gerry Mulligan’s transcendental playing on Beaver and Krause’s 60s stoner album Grandharva. Or a continuation of Barbra Thompson’s solo Saxophone track “Down by the Sally Gardens” on Songs from the Centre of the Earth, where she duets with the insides of Abbey du Thoronet in Southern France. That tune became the theme to TV detective drama A Touch of Frost. Thompson a composer and Saxophonist who’s playing and writing crossed genres is another good reference point for this excellent album. Like Danny Thompson’s Whatever in the 1980s and Jimmy Giuffre’s cool jazz trios of the 1950s and 60s this duo of musicians produce beautiful, meditative music that finds perfect melodies, jazz in folk and the folk in jazz. Lovers of melancholic landscape instrumental music that refuses to sit comfortably in one genre, listeners to Jan Garbarek, recent Andy Sheppard, Barbara Thompson and Charles Lloyd will find much to enjoy here. As will anyone captivating by those moments of piercing solo violin against the strings in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. Swedish pastoral music anyone, labels are just labels, where ever it sits this is a fine listen. Jesse Jackson, speaking at Wattstax, famously sampled by Primal Scream, another band who straddled genres said “Today on this program you will hear gospel, and rhythm and blues, and jazz. All those are just labels. We know that music is music”.