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Scotland-born and San Francisco-based fiddler and viola player Alasdair Fraser formed the quintet Skyedance while working on an award-winning indie solo album, Dawn Dance, in 1996. In the five years since, the group has acquired a solid reputation of their own. The Glasgow Herald described the band as "fiddle, pipes, flute, and bass working tightly together with lyrically rippling piano and the most considerate and imaginative of percussionists." Http:// praised them for "combining superb musicianship onstage with innovative compositions and arrangements, a love for the deep sound of African drums, and a fondness for a driving bass." By the time that he formed Skyedance, Fraser was already known as "one of the finest fiddlers Scotland has ever produced." In addition to a lengthy list of solo albums, Fraser was heard on the soundtracks for such films as Titanic, Last of the Mohicans, and Spitfire Grill. The L.A. Times described him as possessing "humble sincerity, flawless virtuosity, and just about the sweetest sound since Fritz Kreisler." Together with longtime pianist and keyboard player Paul Machlis, Fraser assembled a top-shelf lineup of musicians. Nova Scotia-born wooden player and piccolo player Chris Norman had previously recorded a solo album, Man with the Wooden Flute, that reached the top position on Billboard's crossover chart, and had performed with the Baltimore Consort Baroque Ensemble and world music trio Helicon. Eric Rigler -- who plays Highland bagpipes, the bellows-blown Scottish small pipes, uilleann pipes, and tin whistle, and previously recorded with Mike Oldfield, Rod Stewart, and Tracy Chapman -- performed in concert with Paul McCartney and was a featured soloist on the soundtrack for the film Braveheart. Skyedance's rhythm section incorporated a diverse range of influences. Percussionist Peter Maund had played with San Francisco-based band Ensemble Alcatraz, recorded several albums of medieval and renaissance music, and served as president of the San Francisco Early Music Society. Fretless bass player Mick Linden, whom Alternative Music Press compared to the late Jaco Pastorius, is equally versed in African and Scottish rhythms. The band's debut album, Way Out to Hope Street, released in 1997, included 13 group-composed instrumentals and a reworking of a medley of traditional dance tunes that Fraser and Machlin recorded in 1986. Their second album, Labyrinth, was listed at the fourth position on a list of the Top 25 essential albums of 2000, compiled by National Public Radio show Echoes. ~ Craig Harris

Years Active:

'90s, '00s