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Fiona Pears - Swing Driven Thing Album Review

20 May 2014 // A review by RodrigoHidalgo

I don't even know where to begin. I just have to say that simply, I love it! Fiona Pears is a New Zealand violinist, composer and performer with six released albums under her belt, and by the sounds of this album, I'm not surprised. Swing Driven Thing is played amongst 10 very talented musicians with Fiona Pears certainly being the star on top of the Christmas tree. By looking at the album cover of the beautiful Fiona I get the vibe that it's going to be 'Fun' and it's unique in a way but at the same time I'm not quite sure if the album cover fully captivates me like the music did. I'd also like to mention one of the musicians Ian Tilley (Fiona's Husband) is actually the one who mixed and mastered the tracks, as an audio engineer myself; Hats off to you Ian, it's so well done I could listen to it for ages. He also co-produces the album along with Fiona. 

This album brings forth 13 incredibly well produced instrumental tracks which all seem to have their own unique characteristics with songs written with a tasty blend of music from the world of swing jazz, french gypsy culture and classical. Just by sitting back on my chair I could hear how well some of these songs were executed, impressively so. There were so many moments when ambience, swing and groove transcended style, familiarity, and creativity. Her style reminds me a lot of some 1940's Stéphan Grappelli mixed with some classical Yehudi Menuhin tastefully blended with Gypsy influenced melodies. I'd go as far as to say Fiona is definitely cut from the same piece of cloth as these musicians. 

When I listen to this album I sense that the musicians would completely pour their heart out in the ever-long pursuit of all sounds which is exactly why my emotions fluctuated furiously along with the strong moods this album outputs. Introducing me to the album is first track Full Moon which was composed by Fiona Pears herself. This song is a great example of a song that moves through a whole bunch of phases in a short amount of time. Playing in some lively, fast, upbeat Allegro to some minor, walking pace Andante within no time.

As I was listening to this album I came across a track that I thought I had recognized, then it became apparent that Fiona was doing her own version of a song written by Django Reinhardt named Douce Ambiance but instead of the lead being played on a clarinet it was played by her lovely violin which sounded amazing still capturing that french, swing, gypsy culture.

My favorite song on this album has to be Swing Driven Thing which is one of the more direct songs she has written. Even though it's not the cool bebop, "traditional" swing that Jazz nuts like myself get into, It still embraces elements of Jazz like improvisation, inter-play between musicians, exploration and a soundscape of smooth, ambient musicianship in the background musically and sonically which are very common elements throughout the whole album. I love how the acoustic guitar is playing along with the Violin at some points and backing up the rhythm the next, but what got me going was the emotive Accordion solo halfway through the track which placed me in a different spot to where i was a minute before. 

As a whole. I love this album and the world needs more musicians like Fiona Pears. I would not dare take back even just a second from this album because it's incredible. The only problem that I had with it was that I felt I didn't hear enough of Fiona's original compositions. I'd love to hear more songs like Full Moon, Swing Driven Thing, Memories and More Than A Memory written by her.

If you love Jazz, Classical, Gypsy or if you just appreciate great, well written music in general then I highly, highly recommend getting this album. 


Swing Driven Thing
View Track Listing

About Fiona Pears

Violinist and composer Fiona Pears started performing as a soloist with orchestras at the age of twelve. Now based in both London and New Zealand, she has forged a career as an international soloist and recording artist.

Fiona started the violin at the age of five after hearing a performance by Carl Pini where she fell in love with the sound of the instrument. In an interview with the Otago Daily Times she said, “Apparently I stamped my feet and cried ‘I want a violin’, and I got one in my Santa stocking that year!”

Her first public performance was at the age of six where she won first prize in a local competition.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Fiona Pears


Swing Driven Thing
Year: 2014
Type: Album
Year: 2012
Type: Album
Fire and Light
Year: 2008
Type: Album
Memories of Home
Year: 2006
Type: Album
Fiona Pears In Concert DVD
Year: 2005
Type: DVD
Las Sayas
Year: 2002
Type: Album

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