PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Oene van Geel (LoLanders at Celtic Connections, Glasgow, 22 January)

Oene van Geel
Photo credit: © Govert Driessen from Oene van Geel's website
Dutch violist Oene van Geel and Scottish multi-instrumentalist Fraser Fifield lead LoLanders, a new sextet that makes its debut at Celtic Connections in Glasgow on Tuesday 22 January 2019. Rob Adams introduces the band:

The latest instalment of the Going Dutch project, which is continuing to promote jazz musicians from the Netherlands across the UK and Ireland during 2019, LoLanders also features Scottish guitarist Graeme Stephen and Glasgow-based tablas master Hardeep Deerhe alongside Dutch bass guitar-percussion team Mark Haanstra and Udo Demandt and has concerts lined up – so far – in Amsterdam, Sheffield, Newcastle and Bath later in the year.

LoLanders follows on from van Geel and Fifield’s meeting during the first international edition of Serious’ Take Five initiative in 2012, after which the violist invited Fifield, a piper and saxophonist who has developed advanced techniques and a deeply expressive style on the low whistle, to work with his group the Nordanians in the Netherlands.

“We got on really well during Take Five,” says van Geel. “It was clear that we had a good musical understanding from the start and when Fraser came over to Amsterdam he fitted in very naturally to what we do in the Nordanians. His low whistle playing especially gave us a different but highly compatible dimension and we always planned to work together again at some point.”

It was actually guitarist Graeme Stephen who maintained the connection between Edinburgh and Amsterdam. While working on a new piece for guitar and string quartet, which became the album Distances, Stephen mentioned to Fifield (the pair have a long-running duo) that he would need to find string players who had a fairly elastic approach. Fifield immediately thought of van Geel who, as well as the Nordanians, also works with the adventurous string quartet Zapp4.

“Fraser told me about Graeme and I thought, if Graeme has the same sense of enquiry and the same expression in his playing as Fraser does, then this could be really interesting,” says van Geel.

One Skype call later, Stephen had the string quartet he needed for Distances. He and Zapp4 subsequently worked together on Stephen’s soundtrack for the 1927 classic film Metropolis, which premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016 and went on to great success at the Xintiandi Festival in Shanghai.

Fraser Fifield
Photo credit: © Patrick Hadfield
When they decided to put LoLanders together van Geel and Fifield took the unconventional step of choosing musicians ahead of instrumentation. Stephen was an automatic choice, as was bassist Mark Haanstra, with whom van Geel – mirroring Fifield and Stephen’s partnership – has a very successful duo, and the two percussionists are also players the two nominal co-leaders have enjoyed working with before.

“We could have ended up with quite an odd combination but as it happens we have an instrumental line-up that has the three main elements – melody, harmony and rhythm – quite strongly covered,” says van Geel. “None of us has any idea of what it might sound like but I’ve every faith in the musicians involved to produce something interesting.”

The six musicians will convene in the Scottish Borders for three days’ rehearsals ahead of the Celtic Connections concert, which also features young Scottish pianist Fergus McCreadie’s trio, and the composers among them have all been primed to take along new pieces.

“I’m really excited about the band,” says van Geel. “It’s particularly interesting because we’re not just going to get together, create one concert and then lose touch, as can often happen in situations where you put a new group together for a festival. Having these other concerts lined up will allow us to develop and blend these six personalities together into one collective identity.

Rob Adams is a freelance journalist based in Edinburgh and helps publicise Going Dutch.

LINK: Oene van Geel's website

Celtic Connections event page

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