William Jackson,
(Linn Records, 1995)

There are some of you who may know of William Jackson and his music through his years as one of the founders of the band Ossian, and others of you who may know the man for the years of work he has done providing music for films or television, and others still who may not know the man or his music at all.

It is to the latter folks that this review is chiefly directed. I was minding my own business at work one day when I was seduced by strains from a co-worker's speakers. What transported me was Inchcolm, so much so that, when I went to the Isles some months later, it bacame the one album I could not return home without. In Larne, my diligence was rewarded, and this remains ome of my most played CDs in a collection of some 2,500-plus discs.

Inchcolm takes its name from the rocky isle in the Firth of Forth which holds a monastery dedicated to St. Columba of Iona, and it is fitting that the disc is populated by a series of musical meditations or tone poems. Lest this appear to be an exercise in relaxing lethargy, however, lend an ear to the opener, "Corryvreckan." As lively and full of energy as the whirlpool which it evokes, it is a sprightly beginning to a musical journey which is global in its scope. The second offering, "In the Northeast Kingdom," surprises in its choice of American Indian flute as one of the melody voices. Such odd turnings are found throughout Inchcolm, almost always to good effect. Another strong offering is the chant "Salve Splendor," taken from the 13th-century Inchcolm Antiphoner. By turns rousing, solemn, elegiac, contemplative, the balance of the music takes the listener through a series of changes and delivers the waiting ear to the concluding piece, "A Lover's Call."

Drawing its lyric from the work of Kahlil Gibran, this piece is 12 and 1/2 minutes of musical improvisation, intertwining Jackson's work on flute, keyboards and assorted percussion with the exceptional vocal talents of Mae McKenna. The effect the first time I heard this piece was transporting, and it says something of the music that it still takes me pretty much anywhere I want to go, no matter how many times I listen to it.

William Jackson, born in Scotland and with a musical heritage that reaches back into County Donegal in Ireland, is a man with a lot to say musically. He says quite a bit of it here on Inchcolm, and though the instrumentation ranges from the orchestral to the intimate, the message is one to both challenge and delight the listener. Don't come to this work expecting a rigorous adherance to a specific musical tradition, but if the fusion experiments of folks like Loreena McKinnett and Susie McKeown attract your willing ear, lend it to Inchcolm.

[ by Gilbert Head ]

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