Review: Zoot Alors!

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This CD seems to have been a long time coming - it seems ages ago that I downloaded a trio of rather nice demo tracks from their website. But on the whole, it’s been worth the wait.

Zoot Alors! are essentially a dance band in the French mode doing much as you would expect such a band to do and this is exactly what you get on the CD. The band are our very own Ian Clabburn on bagpipes and whistles, John Garner on melodeon, Steve Spencer-Jowett on GHB in brass to resist insect attack, made for an Indian Maharajah by Thomas Macbean Glen of Edinburgh, c.1860.

hurdy gurdy, cittern, guitar and percussion, and Trevor Lines on both electric and double bass. Arrangements of the tunes are both interesting and varied - making this album well worth a listen. They may be a dance band, but they’re obviously not just a dance band.

Another plus for Bagpipe Society members is that this is not one of those bands that have pipers but seem to do their damnedest to never let the pipes be heard. Ian’s piping is their on the majority of the tracks and plays a leading role in the melody lines. And of course, Ian is a pretty good piper as well.

My one beef with this album is the recording quality. Maybe it’s my imagination but some of the instruments seem to have been recorded much more nicely than others. Top of the list would be the melodeon which sounds great, whereas there seems something decidedly lacking with both the hurdy gurdy and bagpipes. And that’s not a complaint about the quality of playing either…

Maybe because of this, or partly anyway, my favourite track on the disc is ‘La Guinguette’ - a duet between just melodeon and bowed double bass. This is a great piece of music, the two instruments really complementing each other. It may just be that I prefer the sound of double bass - which also, plucked, features on ‘La Burette’ along with Ian’s piping - to electric bass guitar on most of the other tracks.

Another track I particularly liked was ‘Laride / Sandworm’, a slight break from the overall French feel of the album, assuming of course that you make a distinction between French and Breton music. It is basically a hurdy gurdy - bass guitar duet before a little percussion joins in, building in quantity through to the end.

Altogether a really good album - well I’ve had it for three months now and I’m still playing it by choice, and not just for doing this review…

The CD is available directly from Ian at: Zoot Alors, 6 Greyfriars Road, Daventry, NN11 4RS for £11.00 inc. P&P (UK only), cheques made out to Ian Clabburn. Foreign orders will have to contact Ian via the website - http://www.zootalors.co.uk

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