Bellevue Rendezvous, Tangents (Bellevue Rendezvous, 2007)

Our friend Gavin Marwick sent us this CD a while ago. It's evidence of yet another of his many musical projects, which include both performance and composition. Bellevue Rendezvous is a trio, with Gavin on fiddle, Ruth Morris on nyckelharpa, and Cameron Robson on bouzouki and guitar. Tangents is 47 minutes long, comprising seven relatively long instrumental tracks, most of them medleys of tunes. As the rather scant liner notes indicate, their repertory is 'broadly European.' While Gavin wrote a number of the compositions himself, many of the rest are traditional -- French, Breton, Serbian, Finnish and Welsh. Again referring to the liner notes, Ruth learned some of these at the Saint Chartier Festival of Instrument Makers in Central France.

We have seen Gavin perform a couple of times, with one of his other bands, Cantrip. (Cameron is also in Cantrip, by the way.) He has a very distinctive fiddle-playing style. Even though he typically sits on a stool, he puts his entire upper body into the fiddle -- torso, arms and head all in motion. You can get a sense of this from the videos of the band on YouTube. I actually find it fascinating to watch him, and I can't listen to his recorded music without picturing this movement in my mind. I spent a number of years doing dance, so I pay attention to details like this. (You really don't want to hear my opinion of musicians whose body language distracts from their performance!)

There's just enough variation among the tunes and interaction among the musicians to make this CD a good listen. I especially liked the Middle Eastern feel of the Serbian tunes in track 6. The medleys give Gavin ample opportunity to demonstrate his remarkably skillful changeovers. Those are as much fun to listen to as Gavin is to watch!

The CD is dedicated to Joe Scurfield, and Gavin wrote one of the tunes as a tribute to him. Joe was a socialist fiddle player, songwriter, and founder of the Old Rope String Band. He took a leadership role in the Musicians' Union as a delegate to the Newcastle Trade Union Council. He died from injuries sustained in a hit-and-run motor vehicle accident at the age of 46 in June 2005.

My only complaint about this CD is that it's too damn' short! I know these musicians have a larger repertory than this, and they are good enough to be able to record performances without spending a lot of time on studio retakes or postproduction tweaking. I hope that these folks decide to lay down some more tracks! This is nice, nice stuff!

[Donna Bird]