For those that like to cherry-pick artists to form imaginary bands may have their dreams come true with the formation of tradtional music super group KAN who release their debut album Sleeper tomorrow (April 30th). Combining elements of Flook and Lau is a sure winner and this album proves it, this new collaboration is a match made in heaven.
KAN is made up of Flook’s extraordinary virtuoso flutist Brian Finnegan from Armagh (N. Ireland), Lau’s deft and forward thinking fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke from Isle of Seil (Scotland), James Goodwin on percussion from Harrogate and guitarist Ian Stephenson of Selby in Yorkshire. If that’s not impressive then just look at SOME of those they have performed and recorded with: Kate Rusby, Cara Dillon, BBC Philharmonic, Blazin’ Fiddles, Liverpool Philharmonic, Kathryn Tickell, Northern Sinfonia, Wayne Shorter, Eddi Reader, Justin Currie, Roddy Woomble, Baltic Crossing, Adem, Sting, OMD , Jack Bruce, Bella Hardy, Nitin Sawhney, Katherine Jenkins, Jan Garbareck, Karine Polwart, Trilok Gurtu and on it goes.
That list above covers names synonymous with both folk and jazz which is reflected in the great cross-fertilisation taking place on this album. All band members are known for their diversification and for forging new sound. They have all worked togather before and from those collaborations a seed of an idea was born back in 2010, a genesis that the band’s name aptly reflects. Kan is derived from a Mayan word meaning ‘Yellow Seed’. Also, the Tzolkin is the sacred moon calendar of the Mayan people that connects the energy of heaven and earth, and 2010 was the year of Kan, a year according to the Mayan oracle to be a time for new beginnings, for planting the seed of some intention, project or dream, for taking a risk.
Whilst the Mayan gods may have favoured a care-free abandonement to their approach, KAN take a more considered route with their music. There is subtlety, grace and intricate finery in their arrangements the backbone of which is steeped in the Irish and Scottish tradtions of Brian and Aidan’s musical roots. But this is no ordinary traditional album, whilst it draws inspiration from the shores of the British Isles it has a pan-global undertone thanks to the broad experiences of each artist which has shaped their interpretations giving them that unique KAN sound.
The album opens to ‘Lori / One, Two, Three‘, a beautiful opening track, comprising of a tune that Aidan dedicated to border fiddle player Lori Watson followed by ‘One, Two, Three‘ which is based around three simple chords. More direct and personal influences take shape throughout the album including the very chilled Modul 1 with Ian taking inspiration from avant garde jazz pianist Nik Bartsch and on Mangatakk which features a tune (Emotional Storm) from Israeli double bass player Avishai Cohen.
Arrangements unfold in unexpected directions which gives this album a fresh and exciting sound, interlaced between melodies and flourishes are the whispers of a jazz inflected influence which bubble to the surface and submerge again. Each artist takes to the fore throughout delivering their promise of an homogenous quartet.
Brian and Aidan showed their colours when they released solo albums that forged new ground with ‘The Ravishing Genius Of Bones’ (2010) and ‘An Tobar’ (2008). IN this respect, Sleeper is maybe an album that would have happened sooner or later but the standard they have set here goes beyond expectations. KAN are one of those bands that are at the forefront of moulding and re-defining tradtional music along with the likes of The Gloaming, if this is the standard then the tradtional music scene has rewarding times ahead!
Sleeper is released Kan Music on April 30th.
KAN on BBC ALBA