There are four regular members of ‘Cotillion’: Seth Bennett on double bass, Jo Burke on fiddle and vocals, Alice Eldridge on ‘cello and Alistair Strachan on horns and percussion.
They are quite an extraordinary bunch… Here we glimpse them in a clearing on a Spring day, in the midst of their instruments.
MR SETH BENNETT
Seth Bennett was born and grew up in Sheffield, studying violin, piano and guitar, as well as singing in the Cathedral Choir there. At the age of 18, inspired by the playing of Mike Watt, of the band the Minutemen, he took up bass guitar, which he studied and played for most of his early 20s. He recorded and toured extensively with various punk bands, while continuing his studies of jazz and folk music, until he realised a long-term aim of taking up the double bass.
Currently living in Bradford, he combines his ongoing love for jazz and improvised music with the study of contemporary classical and British and Eastern European folk musics, a mixture reflected in his current musical activities, playing in the award-winning Jazz band I.D.S.T., Balkan/Roma music band Maquipucuna, Chamber improvisation band 7 Hertz, Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, and the orchestra Sinfonia of Leeds, as well as being active on the Leeds improvised music scene. He’s also obsessed with cycling, and is in the middle of a lifelong passionate affair with the Yorkshire Dales.
MISS JO BURKE
Joanna is an accomplished singer, pianist, traditional fiddle/ Norwegian fiddle player and composer. The dark clarity and subtle expressiveness of her singing voice, combined with her exquisite and intelligent interpretations of traditional songs, have been known to make even the great Shirley Collins cry. She is a member of the London Bulgarian Choir, the London Hardangfele Lag and has recently recorded and toured across the U.S. with the Mediaeval Baebes. She also teaches music to mixed-ability children around the south east of England.
Her work as a composer includes a collaboration with dancer Victoria McCarte on her piece ‘Eve’s Aquarium’, the sound track to a short film ‘Altar’ by Roland Kemp, music for a London Theatre Production of ‘The Brothers Size’ by Tarell Alvin McCraney, and vocal music performed at a Pagan Well Blessing in St Leonards.
She has sung on the mountains of Bulgaria and danced with the Bedouin in Egypt. On the last night of October each year, you may meet Joanna’s ‘other’ self, Madame Burkeskina-Burkeski in a darkened caravan where she will tell you your fortune. She can also be seen whittling bamboo spears as a member of a post-apocalyptic tribe in Ben Rivers’ science fiction documentary film ‘Slow Action’.
Joanna is currently recording her first solo album.
MISS ALICE ELDRIDGE
As a child Alice collected things that she found outside, took delight in long division, and climbed a lot of trees. In her adult life she works across the arts as performer, composer, technician, producer and researcher.
Her earliest employment involved stitching accoutrements for falcons. After a stint of teaching in the Himalayas, she completed a BSc in Psychology, an MSc in Evolutionary and Adaptive Systems and a DPhil in biologically-inspired interactive Software. During her post-doc in Australia, she did a handstand on Mount Ossa. Her production work ranges from nuts and bolts technicianship to the single-handed coordination of some of the UKs leading music and arts festivals. She currently holds a Research Fellowship at the Centre for Creative Research in Sonic Arts Practice at LCC.
All the while has played the ‘cello: as a child playing classical music in a goat shed on saturday mornings, more recently performing around Europe and Australia with her solo project ‘self-karaoke machine’ in squats and landmark cultural institutions alike. She also collaborates in an on-going, sporadic and glorious fashion with musicians from acts as diverse as Icarus, East of Eden, Bat for Lashes, Penguin Café and the Tacit Ensemble.
MR ALISTAIR STRACHAN
Alistair Strachan plays cornet, flugelhorn, electronics and percussion. He is regularly spotted playing at experimental and folk gigs in Brighton, and in the past few years he has begun touring in Europe. He is an active member of two notable musical collectives: Safehouse, an open improvisers group, and Willkommen, who lean more towards folk. As a promoter and curator he has put on many events, sometimes low-key gigs in small venues, other times more expansive affairs such as SoundCurious, a weekend festival of musicians interacting with visual art.
People sometimes come up to Alistair after gigs and remark that they didn’t realise the cornet could be played so softly. A music mogul in Frankfurt once suggested that his lips must be made of balsa wood, such was the softness of his tone. This lightness of touch has drawn him to composers and musicians who value subtle, plaintive playing over the more strident trumpeting normally associated with a brass section. His horn certainly emits some eerie noises on occasion, perhaps informed by the many years he spent as the web editor for the Fortean Times, fielding news reports of incoming frog falls and unearthly hums.
He has played at some big UK festivals – Green Man, the Big Chill – and at some fancy venues such as Queen Elizabeth Hall, but most of his favourite gigs have been in more unexpected haunts – an old minesweeper in Deptford Creek, a stone barn in mid-Wales, and inside a large shrub in Warwickshire.
He has a number a regular groups he plays and writes with – Hamilton Yarns, Sons of Noel an Adrian, ViV, Oddfellows Casino and Crayola Lectern to name a few. He has played live with some stars of the musical firmament such as Damo Suzuki and Warren Ellis, and has recorded with two Mercury Prize nominees – The Go! Team and Laura Marling. He has studied with Roma brass players in Serbia and with a local be-bop trumpeter … but none of this seems to have overly changed his sound, which lies somewhere between Trumpton and New Orleans.