Dowland: In Darkness Let Me Dwell, & other songs

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WORKS: In Darkness Let Me Dwell, & other songs
PERFORMER: John Potter (tenor), Stephen Stubbs (lute), John Surman (bass clarinet, soprano saxophone), Maya Homburger (violin), Barry Guy (double bass)
CATALOGUE NO: 465 234-2
Following the great successes of its Officium and Mnemosyne albums, ECM has developed the jazz-meets-classical theme even further in this new release of Dowland songs. The recording brings together bassist and composer Barry Guy, Baroque violinist Maya Homberger, jazz saxophonist John Surman and Dowland experts Stephen Stubbs and John Potter for a collection in which jazz and improvised elements reach into the very fabric of the songs, how they are performed and what they mean. The justification is that Dowland himself was a great improviser, and that the period immediately after his death placed great emphasis on extemporisation, and while the treatments that some of his songs receive here might be thought quite extreme, they are always illuminating. ‘In darkness let me dwell’ sees Potter and Stubbs’s finely etched performance accompanied by dark tremolandos and edgy scrapings from violin, bass and bass clarinet, while ‘Come again’ gains a gloriously rich scoring with Surman bright on soprano sax. ‘Flow my tears’ is given two interpretations, the first with the ensemble winding polyphonic lines around the song, the second a showcase for Barry Guy’s extended bass techniques. Potter is never less than impressive in wonderfully unforced performances, and all five performers show great sensitivity both to the original settings and to each other’s contributions. The remarkable results show just what can be achieved when performance of the highest order and creative freedom meet. David Kettle