Collection: Extempore II: A modern Mass for the Feast of St Michael

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Orlando Consort,Perfect Houseplants
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: A modern Mass for the Feast of St Michael based on the medieval melody ‘L’homme armé’
PERFORMER: Orlando Consort, Perfect Houseplants
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907319

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This is a more successful exercise in fusing medieval vocal music with instrumental jazz than the original Extempore disc which these two groups released in 1998. The first volume made some fairly superficial claims about the common ground shared by these two musics, focusing on the importance of improvisation to both forms but fudging their inherent differences.

The rather peculiar stuff which resulted was reminiscent of the mish-mash you hear when standing in the doorway between two departments in a record shop. However, much of this has now been put to rights with Extempore II, where, for example, modality, tempo and instrumental and vocal timbre are all much more closely knit.

This may be partly due to the fact that the two groups have started from scratch by presenting what is in fact a new, large-scale composition in the form of a Mass, by contrast with the first volume, a more direct adaptation of pre-13th-century music which seemingly had a jazz element tacked on to it as an afterthought.

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The ‘jazz Mass’ is not a new idea, and the project has a slightly Wheldonian, early-BBC2 feel, but despite the occasional few minutes of padding it remains an interesting and reasonably effective recording. Roger Thomas