Album Remarks & Appraisals:
From its inception, John Potters Dowland Project has drawn upon different musical traditions, including those of early music and improvisation.
The Night Sessions album emphasizes the Projects improvisational flexibility, as the players create new music, sometimes with poetry as inspirational reference and guide. There are also a number of daytime pieces worked up, Potter says, from small amounts of notation: Menino Jesus a Lappa is based on Portuguese pilgrim song fragments and Theoleptus 22 built around a Byzantine chant. Lute fantasias are taken from Dalzas Intabolatura de Lauto (Venice, 1508) and Attaignants Tres breve et familiere introduction...a jouer toutes chansons (Paris, 1529). The oldest compositions are Can vei la lauzeta mover a love song by the 12th century troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn, and Fumeux fume by the 14th century avant-gardist Solage. Two incarnations of the Dowland Project are heard here, the original band with Potter, Stephen Stubbs and John Surman joined by Barry Guy and Maya Homburger, and the revised line-up with Milos Valent on violin and viola. Yet the music, recorded at St. Gerold sessions in 2001 and 2008, reflects a unified sense of purpose.
American Record Guide, November/December 2013
I think if you have a taste for the avant-garde, for a modern take using medieval texts, and for a group of musicians who like to improvise medieval music with a mix of ancient and modern instruments, you would like this recording. It has wonderful sound, and one must give these people credit for doing something innovative.
Liner Note Author: John Potter .
Recording information: Propstei St. Gerold (09/2001/01/2006).
Photographers: Peter Laenger; Petra Goldmann; Jarmila Uhlíková.
Recorded in 2001 and 2008, Night Sessions is the fourth album of the Dowland Project on ECM, drawing on music of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods as raw source material for improvisation. Leader John Potter is joined by Stephen Stubbs, John Surman, Barry Guy, Maya Homburger, and Milos Valent, all experts on antique and modern instruments who create a mysterious dialog between the past and present by crossing boundaries of style and expression. Much of the music they have reworked is anonymous, derived from fragmentary pieces or ancient chants, though there are a few pieces by known composers, such as Joan Ambrosio Dalza, Bernart de Ventadorn, Solage, and Pierre Attaingnant, and their music is also subjected to the group's unpredictable adaptations. This album is not for early music purists or people who like to put their music in neat cubbyholes, because the blending of consort music with avant-garde jazz and experimental vocalizations does not allow for easy categorization. Yet the album works surprisingly well on its own terms, not only because of its compelling feeling of darkness and melancholy, but also because it provides many inventive transformations and surprises that keep the listener thinking. It may be called crossover music for the sake of convenience, but Night Sessions really is sui generis.
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