Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas
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Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas

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"...Sparky understanding and mutual inspiration make Fraser and Haas such a classy, self-sufficient pairing." The California-based Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and the American cellist Natalie Haas follow up their Scots Trad Album of the Year 2004, Fire and Grace, with more graceful duets, expansive airs and occasional calls on more exotic influences. If this collection doesn’t quite convey the spark of the duo’s live performances, the musicianship is excellent and the variety of arrangements, with Haas slipping easily from a “rhythm section” role to playing counter melodies, keeps the music on the move. Piano on two tracks and pipes on the slightly grandiose finale add further variety, although Fraser and Haas clearly have an understanding that makes their partnership self-sufficient. - Herald Scotland


When it comes to the world’s most dynamic traditional Scottish music duo, everything old is new again. Over the past decade, Scottish-born fiddler Alasdair Fraser and Menlo Park-raised cellist Natalie Haas have turned the Celtic music scene on its ear with their dazzling partnership, a creative bond forged in the Santa Cruz Mountains at Fraser’s Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle School. While the instrumentation initially left many people scratching their heads, wondering about the lack of a piano, guitar or accordion, Fraser points out that in the 18th- and early 19th-century fiddle/cello duos were the standard combo for dances.

“It’s astonishing to me that the cello was so prominent, but it’s well documented that fiddle and cello was the dance band of choice,” says Fraser, 57, who performs with Haas on Friday at Freight & Salvage. “The more we play together the more we feel like the instruments really are bonded musically. It makes perfect sense, two string instruments that speak the same language.

“Our goal is, you have two voices, what kind of conversation can we have, and how full a sound we can make?” Fraser continues. “It’s about carving out a sonic space where we don’t actually say everything. We can allude to the bass notes, and the middle harmonies and touch in on them and leave. We both love the challenge of setting things in motion, and keeping the plates spinning.”

Born in the central lowlands town of Clackmannan and long based in the historic boomtown Nevada City, Fraser is one of the world’s most esteemed traditional Scottish fiddlers. But his exponentially expansive influence stems as much from his tireless work as a teacher and mentor.

Haas started attending Valley of the Moon in 1995 at the age of 11 with her younger sister, renowned fiddler Brittany Haas, and at 18 she joined the faculty. Fraser had long kept an eye out for a collaborator to bring the cello back into the fold, and he gradually realized Haas was eager for the challenge.

“As we increasingly played together I saw this graceful intensity,” Fraser says. “Here’s this young woman saying ‘let’s make this thing groove.’ I would say, can we pull this off just the two of us? And she would say, yep! She has the technique to go wherever our ideas take us.”While Haas wasn’t particularly familiar with Scottish music when she started Valley of the Moon, she got drawn into school’s tight-knit community and fell in love with the tradition.

“Scottish music has a wonderful spectrum, from beautiful, haunting slow melodies to fast rollicking reels,” says Haas, 29, a Juilliard graduate who taught at Boston’s Berklee College of Music for two years before she started delving into Quebec’s vibrant but too-little-known traditional music scene. “The melodies are really heart wrenching, but there’s always a glimmer of hope at the end.”

In many ways the duo embodies the tension between refinement and elemental exhilaration contained in traditional Scottish music, which blossomed when an infusion of Italian culture in 18th century Edinburgh led to a violinistic, almost chamber music approach to folkloric melodies.

Fiddlers continued to evoke the tradition’s ancient, wild roots as ecstatic dance music for communal celebrations, with tunes derived from the bagpipes. In forging the duo’s identity, Fraser believes that he and Haas are tapping into the music’s terpsichorean history, putting the rhythmic imperative at the center of their sound.

“The last century some of the greatest musicians played for dancing,” Fraser says, singling out Duke Ellington. “But now a lot of great musicians have never actually played for dance. Part of our paradigm shift is calibrating the music with a dance sensibility, which affects your bow arm incredibly. When you realize you’re trying to move bodies around the floor, it changes your whole approach.”

Their paradigm shift has influenced a brilliant generation of young string players, who have studied the duo’s 2004 debut “Fire and Grace,” which won Best Album of the Year at the Scots Trad Music Awards, and 2007’s “In the Moment.” Without other instruments cluttering up their arrangements (“Less really is more,” Haas says), they create a sumptuous orchestral mix through the subtle art of aural implication, an intricately textured sound built upon Haas’s extended cello technique. “What I’m trying to do is create different textures for Alasdair to sit on top of,” Haas says. “I’m going for different kinds of sounds, rhythm guitar, harp or upright bass. I can make up harmony parts, counterpoint lines, and I can play melodies as well. My classical training really helps with that. There are so many possibilities. We’re both still very excited by this. The two instruments are really made for each other.

On their third album for Fraser’s Culburnie Records, 2011’2 “Highlander’s Farewell,” they embraced a glittering cast of peers, including the powerhouse Irish duo of fiddler Martin Hayes and guitarist Dennis Cahill, Brittany Haas, and fiddler and pianist Hanneke Cassel (another Valley of the Moon alum). While never losing sight of the Scottish tradition, the album reflects their engagement with an international array of influences, particularly in the realm of rhythm and groove.

“We’re taking the music of the Highlands and looking at the Diaspora,” Fraser says. “As you become a cultural traveler, which I increasingly think of myself as being, you get to dine on these feasts of musical riches, meet kindred spirits in diverse cultures, and this album is a celebration of that.” -Andrew Gilbert - Berkeleyside


Universal Hall, Findhorn, 5 December 2012

OUTSIDE the temperature was biting at minus 3 but inside Findhorn’s Universal Hall it was a warm and convivial crowd to welcome respected duo Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.

THE packed hall reflected the appeal of the duo and with a recently released new album, Highlander’s Farewell, and a promise to be back in Scotland for Celtic Connections in January, including a strings workshop, Scots born fiddler Alasdair and American cellist Natalie weren’t ones to disappoint.


Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas
The new album provided a number of traditional tunes for the Universal Hall gig, including the poignant and passionate title track which melds old with new through a medley of ‘Highlander’s Farewell to Ireland’, ‘O’er the water to Charlie’ and ‘Highlander’s Farewell’ mixing strathspey, reel and jig with some spicy Appalachian seasoning.

Duncan Chisholm’s ‘The Farley Bridge’, a sweeping and sweet melody, perfectly symbolised the vigorous relationship between past and present and highlighted the rich vitality of contemporary tunes. This fluidity marks the best of Fraser and Haas’s talents. As Alasdair stated, if Neil Gow had stayed with the old tunes he’d have little to play, and it is in this spirit of exploration and respect for the past which the duo celebrate.

Similarly the joyous and lively ‘The Referendum’, a new tune in honour of Alec Salmond’s attendance at Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, flawlessly captured the sense of questioning surrounding that significant issue. Fraser’s opinion on the matter was evidently on show when he suggested the piece should be played “optimistically”.

A few personal tunes mixed with some traditional favourites, inspired by friends and family, followed including ‘Glenfinnan Nights’ written on a drive through Glencoe which swiftly swayed into ‘Tibbie Fowler O’ The Glen’. New tune (only around 3 week’s old!) the ‘Connie Muir Suite’ blended reel, jog, waltz and strathspey in an atmospheric and charming tribute to a close friend. Howie Muir, Connie’s husband, also provided the inspiration for the rhythmic ‘Ouagadougou Boogie’ a feisty and funky invitation to dance.

A series of old tunes, reels and strathspeys concluded the gig including ‘The Pitnacree Ferryman’, ‘The Smiths a Gallant Fireman’ and ‘Crossing the Minch’ before the audience, all on their feet and a good number dancing away on the floor, accompanied the duo on ‘Kelburn Brewer’ as Alasdair and his fiddle bopped through the energetic crowd.

The always eloquent Alasdair proved an entertaining host and the joy between both musicians was palpable and infectious; Natalie’s smiles and Alasdair’s nifty footwork were testament to the delight and talent of two musicians simply enjoying playing music together. It was clear the duo were happy to be back in Findhorn; as Alasdair noted, as they drove through Spey country to the gig, every signpost suggested a fiddle tune.

The duet between instruments, combined with an abundant synthesis of funk, jazz, classical and trad rhythms was a heady but delightful mix. Articulate, skilled and engaging Fraser and Haas superbly demonstrated the beguiling connection between fiddle and cello and an enchanting evening was had by all. Once again Universal Hall should be praised for its fine acoustics and relaxed atmosphere, as Alasdair noted it’s a “grand place for a gathering” and I couldn’t agree more.

© Billy Rough, 2012 - Northings


The delight to listen to two real masters of traditional music. Scottish fiddler extraordinaire Alasdair Fraser is teaming on this album once again up with cellist Natalie Haas, who has managed to make the cello an integral instrument to Scottish traditional music. This quite unique combination of fiddle and cello gives the Scottish tunes a somewhat different beautiful sound with a classical edge to it. The album offers a mix of better and lesser known tunes as well as some of Alasdair's compositions. You can feel the passion that these two musicians put into their music, and you can also experience on some tunes the sounds of a 1760 German violin. To give full justice to this album, and to fully appreciate it, you do need to take the time to sit down and listen to the music.
© Michael Moll - FolkWorld


There is no doubt that Fraser and Haas are among the finest duos performing Scottish music anywhere. Their first recording was a stunner, certainly one of the best CDs of 2004. Number two was more laid back, and this third release builds on their shared experience with tunes from all over the fiddle world. The list of composers reads like a retrospective on Alasdair's career: Duncan Johnnstone, Fergie MacDonald and Gordon Duncan from various parts of Alasdair's native Scotland, Howie MacDonald and John Morris Rankin from Nova Scotia, Anton Seoane and Dominique Forges bringing influences from his European tours. Nathaniel Gow is represented too, of course, along with many traditional tunes whose composers may have been known to Gow but are lost to us.

There are just three of Alasdair's own tunes here, and none of Natalie's. McLaughlin's Strathspey is a towering example of the classic Scottish dance form which I heard this duo perform live at Celtic Connections 2011: the recorded version is every bit as captivating. Whitewater is a powerful driving reel inspired by California's Yuha River. Alasdair Fraser is well known for slow airs, and his composition Craigmont doesn't disappoint: written in the grand Speyside style, its sweetness and strength are brought out in equal measure by the fiddle and cello.

With highlights aplenty, Highlander's Farewell is a recording not to be missed. One or two things about it bug me, though. Fergie's great tune The Jig Runrig needs no introduction: so why do we wait 45 seconds here? Swapping the melody from fiddle to cello and back again is something of a speciality for Fraser and Haas, but on this recording there's a tendency for the fiddle harmonies to overpower the lower notes: and in any case, I'm not sure that any amount of arrangement justifies a five-minute version of Gloomy Winter. Niggles aside, Highlander's Farewell is extremely enjoyable. I particularly like Farewell To Nigg, The Ramnee Ceilidh, and that excellent old Perthshire reel The Pitnacree Ferryman which certainly warrants its four minute spot. Fraser and Haas have gathered a gaggle of great guests on this album, but it's the core pairing of fiddle and cello which makes this CD something special.

Alex Monaghan - Living Tradition


Alasdair Fraser is one of Scotland’s leading exponents of the fiddle, renowned for both his solo work and his collaborations, particularly with Tony McManus on the evocative ‘Return To Kintail’. For ‘Fire & Grace’, he teams with cellist Natalie Haas, to make a folk record that is distinctly classical in feel. Unlike the usual guitar-based chordal accompaniments, Haas uses a mixture of ground bass, implied chords and counterpoint to underscore Fraser’s excursions on such traditional material as ‘St ‘Kilda Wadding’ and ‘The Shetland Set’. It’s an unusual and attractive sound, austere at times perhaps, but light years ahead of the standard session style. For anyone interested in Scots fiddle styles, this is a master class recording. - The Rake's Progress


This is a classy recording, quite literally oozing ‘Fire And Grace’. Gifted young Californian cellist Natalie Haas joins Alasdair Fraser (Skyedance), acknowledged Scottish fiddle ambassador. Together, they bring a strong sense of rhythm, emotion and joie de vivre to their interpretations of tunes old and new - Scottish waltzes, jigs, and reels - even a Scandinavian polska.

This recording is distinguished because it reunites the fiddle with its centuries-old ceilidh partner, the cello, often confined to the orchestral setting. Indeed, Fraser’s joy at performing with cellist Haas at a recent Celtic Connections performance I attended was palpable. In Captain Simon Fraser’s collection of 1816, the lyric to one song claims that the fiddle and violoncello had no rival “at wedding, dance or ball”. David Allen (1744 – 96) depicted a fiddler and cellist at work in his painting ‘The Highland Dance’. And here we seemingly have their 21st century reincarnation!

Fraser’s expressive playing twists and turns throughout, shimmering with a remarkable lyricism. He embraces many of Scotland’s fiddle styles – from the hugely enjoyable ‘Stirling Castle Set’, ‘St Kilda Wedding/Brose And Butter’ to the exquisite ‘The Duchess’; Haas’ performance lends depth, structure and rhythm, besides conveying great emotion, particularly on tunes such as ‘Josefin’s Waltz’ and ‘Da Stockit Light’. On ‘Calliope Meets Frank’, her rhythm making is astonishing, and the album abounds with similar examples. It’s Haas’ performance that hooks me as I listen – her playing is often angular, dark, and underpins the whole with superlative bass rhythm.

Debbie Koritsas - Songlines


Natalie Haas is an 18-year-old Californian cellist, who is out to prove, alongside Wendy Weatherby and Abby Newton, that the cello has a firm and lasting place in Scottish traditional music. Just ask Niel Gow or his brother Nathaniel if you hae ony doots! Natalie's cello emotes, soothes and grunts, sometimes carrying a melody, sometimes providing a percussive bass line, as in the well-known Calliope House.

...and then there's this big, smiling, beardy fellow playing alongside her - some shaggy guy with a fiddle called Alasdair Fraser. Joking aside - this is a stunning CD. Alasdair Fraser is his usual, lyrical, bouncy self, filling your ears and feet with spring-heeled fiddling that has a "feel" that no-one can match. There are some very well-known tunes here, including Da Slockit Light, Calliope and Jenny Dang the Weaver, wearing new clothes in this fiddle/cello combination. Mostly, Alasdair carries the tune while Natalie plays countermelodies and rather fine grunty noises, but occasionally he steps back and lets the cello have its say on the melody line. I can find a lot to like and nothing to criticise on this CD. You don't have to be a fiddler or cellist to enjoy it and it joins Alasdair's masterpiece with Tony McManus (Return to Kintail) as one of my desert-island instrumental favourites of all time. From me, that's very high praise indeed.

-Alan Murray - Living Tradition


If it weren't so immediately accurate, the title chosen by fiddler Alasdair Fraser for his first recorded collaboration with 19- year -old American cellist Natalie Haas might seem a touch pre-emptive.

As it is, however, these along with numerous other complimentary epithets - among them, "brio", "verve", "flamboyance" - are reduced to little more than factual descriptions by the album's escalating brilliance. Fraser has long championed the rehabilitation of the cello as an ideal tonal and rhythmic partner for the fiddle, as it was often deployed in previous times, and with Haas has evidently found a true musical soulmate.

A fascination with rhythm has been a central characteristic of Fraser's work in recent years, and here it's this percussive quality in Haas's playing that predominated over its harmonic aspects. At the same time, though, even amid the thrilling, coruscating swordplay of the dance tunes, it's the slower numbers that stand out.

The Duchess unites three old tunes named after aristocratic ladies into an exquisitely expressive whole, while the pizzicato-stroked Prince Charles' Last View of Scotland achieves a haunting blend of grief and gravitas. - The Herald


A welcome trend of recent years has been the cello's reinvention as a folk instrument (or rather, in Scotland, its re-emergence - it used to be a regular fixture in dance bands). As 18-year-old American cellist Natalie Haas brilliantly demonstrated on Thursday, accompanying California-based Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser, its depth of resonance and percussive potential put a potent spin on the rhythms of Celtic music. Throughout a set of mostly classic Highland airs and dance tunes, Fraser was also in awesome form, sparking off his new partner, his playing panoramic in its range, intensity, and technical command. - Sunday Herald


Sometimes the intimacy of the relationship between the players is all you need. The great fiddler Alasdair Fraser is a burly, bearded figure, but when he plays with the dark-haired, dark-eyed young Californian cellist Natalie Haas, as they did at the Piping Centre, they make more than just music.
Haas can make her instrument sound like the drone of a hurdy-gurdy, the jangle of a guitar or the thump of a string bass and she can carry the tune of fast jigs and reels as well. It is a fascinating combination, one that occasionally sounds like a baroque duo. And then you realise that some of the great fiddle tunes by people such as Neil Gow were indeed written in the 18th century. When he played, often with a cellist, at Blair Castle, it probably sounded just like that. - The Times


“Traditional music has always been a connective tissue between cultures, communities, and generations. Witness the duo of Scottish fiddle star Fraser and cello prodigy Haas. He is from Clackmannan, a small town in Scotland’s smallest county. She is a Juilliard grad from California. When they met, he was teacher, and she was student. And yet on a new CD, “In the Moment,” you would think they’d been playing together for centuries. While his fiddle dances, her cello throbs darkly or plucks puckishly. Then she opens her cello’s throat, joining Fraser in soaring sustains, windswept refrains, and sudden, jazzy explosions. Their sound is as urbane as a Manhattan midnight, and as wild as a Clackmannan winter.” -Scott Alarik - Boston Globe


Alasdair Fraser is among the most accomplished Scottish fiddlers alive today. He has made numerous excellent CDs: notably with Paul Machlis and Skyedance. Then he formed a duet with the brilliant, classically trained cellist Natalie Haas and their sublime debut album Fire & Grace won the 2004 Scots Trad Album of the Year award. In the Moment is the long-awaited follow-up to Fire & Grace.
You might think that traditional fiddle and cello is an unlikely pairing. But this elegant combination is not new. As Alasdair explained at Glasgow's Celtic Connections, much eighteenth and nineteenth century traditional music was performed by cello and fiddle in the music halls of northeast Scotland.
In the Moment will please all of Alasdair and Natalie's existing fans and win them fresh admirers. Some will prefer this album to Fire & Grace for it's greater warmth, originality and broader range of influences. Where the first album contained mainly traditional tunes, the second album is mostly Alasdair and Natalie's own compositions. This allows them the freedom to use a wider musical palette and to create a lusher sound. There are jazzy and classical nuances within the traditional Scottish-American flavours, and the music often has a majestic film score quality, despite being layed by only two instruments! The dramatic rhythmic cello accompaniment to the fiddle's soaring melodies is reminiscent of Aaron Copland and Elmer Bernstein. While most of the album is fiddle and cello duet, piano is brought in beautifully for Miss Laura Risk, and piano and pipes join in on the final track.
Standout tracks include Salamanca (an exquisite melody and poignant counterpoint that switches from fiddle to cello and back again) and Natalie Mariah (a throat-catchingly gorgeous tune composed by Alasdair as a musical portrait of Natalie). I both tracks Alasdair and Natalie use the advantage of original composition to deliver that extra element of surprise and unpredictability to keep you enthralled.
The playing throughout this album is characterised by a distilled intensity and breathtaking sensitivity. This music elicits powerful emotions. Some film director really should commission Fraser & Haas to compose the soundtrack to an epic western in the vein of Last of the Mohicans or Heaven's Gate. Are you reading this, Mr Ridley Scott? Mr Ang Lee?
www.greentrax.com, check out the track on this month's covermount CD.
Paul Matheson - FROOTS Magazine


Fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas will have you dreaming of rocky knolls, impossibly green fields and cozy sod fire-lit nights with their 2011 release of Highlander’s Farewell out on the Culburnie Records label. Tapping into the deeply expressive song of the Celtic soul, Mr. Fraser and Ms. Haas breathe fresh life into such wonderful tracks like “Highlander’s Farewell,” “Jig Runrig/The Ramnee Ceilidh” and “Nathaniel Gow’s Lament for the Death of his Brother/The Gallowglass.” Crossing pollinating traditional Scottish tunes, Irish reels, country dances and Galician dance tunes, Mr. Fraser and Ms. Haas, along with guests such as Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Bruce Molksy, Brittany Haas, Ryan McKasson and Hanneke Cassel turn Highlander’s Farewell into a wonderful treat. “A Bruxa/A Muineira de Chantada” and “Cragmont” are wickedly wonderful. - World Music Central


"....There is an eloquence and intensity in this musical partnership which few others can match. Alasdair Fraser has for a long time been recognised as one of the finest exponents of the Scottish fiddle. He plays with characteristic flair and accuracy and Natalie Haas delivers tremendous power and rhythmic edge from the cello. There are also some fine guests on this album including Bruce Molsky, Martin Hayes and Denis Cahill. It is in the nature of the Scottish tradition to emphasise precision and incorporate harmony, and this album does that with consummate skill. The music is superbly arranged and presented and the beautiful sound of the instruments working together is one of the highlights of this album. ...." - FiddleOn Magazine


ST ANDREW'S IN THE SQUARE, GLASGOW

IF THERE'S one word to describe these two musical partnerships, it's "jugalbandi" – an Indian expression that literally means "entwined twins". To be truly jugalbandi, a musical partnership must feature two players on an equal footing, even if they come from different traditions...

Fiddler Alasdair Fraser and cellist Natalie Haas, meanwhile, come from the folk and classical fields respectively. Their pieces segued together with an almost unnatural fluency, the tempo never faltered and the rapport between them was, as one audience member within my earshot put it, "sweet as a nut".
Then, to round off this energy-sapping but highly educational evening, Hayes and Cahill returned to the stage, joining up with Fraser and Haas to form as a technically challenging and visually impressive string quartet.
Or, if you will, as a double jugalbandi.

-Barry Gordon - Scotsman


"The musical chemistry between Scottish fiddle legend Alasdair Fraser
and young cello ace Natalie Haas is a rare, felicitous thing." - Daniel Gewertz - Boston Herald


Discography

Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol. 1, 2001
Fire & Grace, 2004
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol. 2, 2004
In The Moment, 2007
Highlander's Farewell, 2011

All CDs appear on Culburnie Records

Photos

Bio

The musical partnership between Alasdair Fraser, long regarded as Scotland's premier fiddle ambassador, and the sizzlingly-talented young California cellist Natalie Haas may not seem an obvious one. Fraser, acclaimed by the San Francisco Examiner as "the Michael Jordan of Scottish fiddling," has a concert and recording career spanning 30 years, with a long list of awards, accolades, television credits, and feature performances on top movie soundtracks (Last of the Mohicans, Titanic). Fraser has been sponsored by the British Council to represent Scotland's music internationally, and received the Scottish Heritage Center Service Award for outstanding contributions to Scottish culture and traditions.

Natalie Haas, a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, wasn't even born when Alasdair was winning national fiddle competitions on the other side of the Atlantic. But this seemingly unlikely pairing is the fulfillment of a long-standing musical dream for Fraser, whose cutting-edge musical explorations took him full circle to find a cellist who could help him return the cello to its historical role at the rhythmic heart of Scottish dance music.

"Going back to the 1700s, and as late as the early 20th century," Fraser says, "fiddle and cello made up the dance band of choice in Scotland, with the cellist bowing bass lines and driving the rhythm. Pianos and accordions elbowed out the cello, relegating it to an orchestral setting. I've been pushing to get the cello back into the traditional music scene for years, always on the lookout for a cellist with whom I could have a strong musical conversation, one that incorporated not just the cello's gorgeous melodic tones, but also the gristly bits—the rhythmic, percussive energy that makes the wee hairs on the back of the neck stand up."

Natalie Haas was just 11 when she first attended Fraser's Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School in California. She responded to Fraser's challenge to find and release the cello's rhythmic soul, and four years later, when Natalie was just 15, Fraser and Haas played their first gig together. Now regularly touring with Fraser and creating a buzz at festivals and in concert halls throughout Europe and North America, Natalie is in the vanguard of young cellists who are redefining the role of the cello in traditional music.

The duo represented Scotland at the Smithsonian Museum's Folklife Festival, have been featured on nationally broadcast Performance Today, the Thistle & Shamrock, and Mountain Stage. They both teach at Fraser's popular annual summer fiddle courses (Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddling School and Sierra Fiddle Camp in California, Alasdair Fraser Fiddle Week at Sabhal Mor Ostaig Gaelic College in Scotland, and Crisol de Cuerda in Spain).

"Cellists are coming out of the woodwork to study with Natalie, to learn how she creates a groove and a whole chunky rhythm section," says Fraser. "It's inspiring to hear the cello unleashed from its orchestral shackles!"

One of the inspirations is the duo's debut recording, Fire & Grace, which displays dazzling teamwork, driving, dancing rhythms, and the duo's shared passion for improvising on the melody and the groove of Scottish tunes. The two instruments duck and dive around each other, swapping melodic and harmonic lines, and trading rhythmic riffs. The recording won not only critical acclaim, but also the coveted the Scots Trad Music "Album of the Year" award, the Scottish equivalent of a Grammy. Fire & Grace, In the Moment, the duo's new CD Highlander's Farewell, and Fraser's many other recordings are on his own Culburnie Records label.