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Awen Ensemble: Cadair Idris


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Awen Ensemble: Cadair Idris
Here in Britain, jazz and folk music intersections have a long history. Putting aside the US-centric fusions of the trad bands of the 1950s, as exemplified by the Chris Barber Band's blend of New Orleans jazz and Depression-era folksongs, the movement really kicked off in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Husband and wife team John and Beverley Martyn's Road To Ruin (Island, 1970), featuring South African alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana among other jazz musicians, remains a classic of its era, blending visceral jazz with newly composed folk songs chronicling contemporary North London's acid and dope-drenched countercultural demi-monde; circa 1970 the couple were troubadours for a scene stretching from Ladbroke Grove in the West through Hampstead and Camden Town on to Islington in the East. Then there was the band Pentangle, more folky than jazzy, but nonetheless a blend. The group's original bassist Danny Thompson also recorded with the Martyns.

More recently the composer, bassist and singer Ruth Goller has released two albums which are adjacent to the British folk-jazz tradition, if not directly part of it: Skylla (Vula Viel, 2021) and Skyllumina (International Anthem, 2024). For over fifteen years a backline star of London's underground jazz scene, Goller is at last moving centerstage (a 2024 AAJ interview with her can be read here).

Echoes of John and Beverley Martyn, Pentangle and Ruth Goller pepper Cadair Idris, the modal-jazz-meets-Celtic-folk debut album from the north of England-based collective Awen Ensemble. The band is a septet comprising singer Amy Clark, trumpeter and flugelhornist Emyr Penry Dance, tenor saxophonist Saul Duff, electric guitarist Ruari Graham, Fender Rhodes player Glen Leach, double bassist Joe Wilkes and bodhranist Eddie Bowes. The album's lead single, "Ionawr," is indicative of the music's breadth (check the YouTube below).

The album's nine tracks follow the journey of a young woman who spends a night alone on the real-life North Wales mountain Cadair Idris in search of personal transformation. The vibe is spectral and windswept and shrooms may or may not be involved. The effect is almost as pagan and every bit as spiritual as that of a Ruth Goller album. The folk strand is hardwired into the ancient traditions of Celtic folk music, the jazz strand is inventive, and the combination is enchanting. Double bassist Joe Wilkes' richly resonant parallels with Danny Thompson, actual or imagined, add to the magick.

Track Listing

Euwn i mi; Idris; Unsettled; Rhyd; Ionawr; Cynefin; If I Fall; Zorny; Upon Leaving The Dream.


Amy Clark
Saul Duff
saxophone, tenor
Ruari Graham
guitar, electric
Glen Leach
Joe Wilkes
bass, acoustic
Eddie Bowes
Additional Instrumentation

Emyr Penry Dance: trumpet, flugelhorn; Glen Leach: Fender Rhodes; Eddie Bowes: bodhrán.

Album information

Title: Cadair Idris | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: New Soil



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