Today sees the release of a new Riverboat Records album: New Found Land. It is the debut album of FatDog, a sextet from Britain and Scandinavia. FatDog was born one night on the Swedish Koster Islands in the summer of 2011. Jazz trio Fattigfolket and folk trio Doggerland were playing at the same festival and decided to end the evening by performing together. The result was surprising, exciting – and oddly beautiful.
FatDog are the musical torchbearers of a new found land – a mythical island in the North Sea, where musicians from Scandinavia and Britain meet to play and swap stories.
With members from Sweden, Norway and England, and based on both sides of the Swedish-Norwegian border, FatDog cross boundaries every time they meet, both literally and musically. Three are established folk musicians anchored in the musical traditions of Scandinavia and Britain. Three are accomplished jazz musicians with an ear both for the local and the cosmopolitan, the traditional and the experimental.
FatDog’s instrument line-up usually raises a few eyebrows: concertina, trumpet, cittern, clarinet, hurdy-gurdy, saxophone and double bass. Having no percussionist, the rhythm section is provided by the buzz of the hurdy-gurdy, the chug of the concertina and, on occasion, the thrash of a cittern. The resulting rhythmic drive is unobtrusive but irresistible. Not least, Anders’s hurdy-gurdy, combining drones, melody and rhythmic ‘trompette’, is a powerhouse at the centre of the band. Patrik’s bubbling clarinet, Hallvard’s sonorous sax and Gunnar’s inventive trumpet each provide both improvisation and chords, playing off the melody and each other in constant movement. Underlying it all is Putte’s double bass, solid and playful at the same time.
FatDog’s repertoire always has at least one foot in folk music, either taking a traditional song or tune as their point of departure or composing new ones in the folk idiom. The rhythms of Scandinavian dance are well represented here, while influences from Macedonia to Morris dance turn up without seeming out of place.
About half of the material on New Found Land consists of songs featuring Richard’s rich baritone. Whether singing in Norwegian, French or his native English, his style, honed over 40 years of singing traditional material, is honest and direct. Two of the tracks featured are six-voice a cappella songs - providing a change of musical scenery and giving the lie to the common conception that jazz musicians can’t sing!