Tenor John Potter, late of the Hilliard Ensemble, formed the Dowland Project in 2003 ostensibly to record the music of Medieval English composer John Dowland (1563-1626). Dowland has several modern benefactors, including Paul O'Dette, Jakob Lindberg and Nigel North. These artists have concentrated on the letter of Dowland, making faithful reproductions of his music with sensitivity toward period music practices. With an eye to the past, Potter and group proceed forward, allowing for an airy creative freedom promoting improvisation within the confines of the "classical" tradition.
Much of Dowland's output exists only in sketchy vocal lines. Potter and his medieval specialists take this wisp of a melody and improvise about it, freely exploring the musical relationships between voice, melody and instrument. Romaria is the group's third release on ECM, the previous two being: In Darkness let me dwell (ECM, 1999) and Care-charming Sleep (ECM, 2003). With improvisation or not, this is rarified music, the smell of highland air and the sweet dampness of the English glen and valley.
Having made so much of Dowland, there is none present here, except in spirit. Potter chose alte Musik - ancient music. Potter selects Gregorian Chants, "O beata infantia" in fragment and complete forms. This typically a cappella style is as old as the Sixth Century. Potter casts these pieces against the Baroque guitar of Stephen Stubbs and the continuo viola of Milo' Valent. Rising out of this stark landscape is John Surman's reeds; his soprano saxophone rises like smoke from a peat chimney in the second setting of the beata.
It is Surman who most broadly exercises improvisation. His recorder sound vaguely Native American on "Der oben swebt" where the wooden wind rises like a mist over a medieval fair. "Dulci solum" is one of two settings from the 13th Century German manuscript Carmina Burana, the same source that made Carl Orff famous. Potter's well-balanced tenor is well suited for the songs chosen for this recital. It is as essential to the integrity of the music as the presence of Valent's continuo.
Romaria is an ethereal listening experience. Its bold improvisatory elements make this recording well suited for the jazz enthusiast who is looking for a little something different.
Track Listing: Got schepfer aller dingen; Veris dulcis; Pulcherrima rosa; Ora pro nobis; L' lume; Dulce solum; Der oben
swebt; O beata infantia; O Rosa; Saudade; In flagellis; Kyrie Jesus autem transiens; O beata infantia; Credo
Laudate dominum; Ein gut Preambel; Sanctus Tu solus qui facis; Ein iberisch Postambel.
Personnel: John Potter: tenor; John Surman: soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, tenor and bass recorders; Milo? Valent:
violin and viola; Stephen Stubbs: baroque guitar and vihuela.
I was first exposed to jazz as a baby. When I was a child, my parents regularly played classic jazz, i.e., Fitzgerald, Hawkins, Holiday, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Montgomery, Silver, etc. I vividly remember sitting in front of the stereo as a kid, rocking back and forth to jazz, so the music is embedded in me
I was first exposed to jazz as a baby. When I was a child, my parents regularly played classic jazz, i.e., Fitzgerald, Hawkins, Holiday, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Montgomery, Silver, etc. I vividly remember sitting in front of the stereo as a kid, rocking back and forth to jazz, so the music is embedded in me. As a life-long jazz lover, I eventually became a jazz educator and producer/host of a very popular jazz radio program in Los Angeles, California.
I love jazz because it is so free. I can think, feel, and dream to jazz, and it allows my mind to flow and expand, musically and otherwise. I also love jazz because it, much like other forms of music, allows opportunities to bring people from all walks of life together. What makes jazz more significant to me, though, is its historical significance; that is, how jazz served, in part, as a method of bringing communities together, a cultural/social/spiritual conduit.