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In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

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Today

As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

CD Review ‘Division Musick’ - English Duos for Viol and Lute Played by Pellingman’s Saraband

Susanna Pell (viols) Jake Heringman (Lutes)
(Review by Ann Alex).
You’ll be wondering why on earth Lance is letting me review this recently issued CD on a jazz blog, so I will quote from the CD insert: The art of dividing upon a ground bass or playing divisions was the Elizabethan and seventeenth century equivalent of our modern jazz tradition.  In other words, this is what all you jazz instrumentalists would have been playing if you’d lived about four hundred years ago.  The ground was a repeated chord progression over which the musicians improvised (divisions); or sometimes they would play variations on a popular tune of the day.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The actual sound is rather different from a jazz sound as there’s no brass or woodwind, but the lute is guitar-like and the bass viol sounds rather like our double bass.  Viols are fretted string instruments which are played with an old fashioned curved bow.  They come in treble, tenor and bass varieties and are difficult to play, as I found out for myself when I tried one on a recent music holiday.
Seven of the 18 tracks are simply entitled Division or A Ground and are technically interesting pieces of music beginning with the main theme followed by increasingly complex variations, often leaving the listener wondering just how many notes can actually be fitted in.  I got the same feeling as when listening to jazz solos, surprised by what the musicians could come up with.  Other tracks are improvisations on tunes of the day, such as John Come Kiss Me Now; Robin Is To The Greenwood Gone; Go From My Window; and of course Greensleeves. The improvisations are played as written down in the original manuscripts, for the sake of authenticity I suppose, but it is believed that there was lots of music played on the spot which was never written down, and so is lost to us now.  The composers mentioned are people such as Davis Mell (1604-1662); the wonderfully named Gottfried Finger (1655-1730) and John Dowland (1563-1626).  The CD is very good if heard as background music but it really deserves to be listened to with attention to the skilled playing as the two instruments weave around each other, call and respond, or become wistful.  I wonder what those composers mentioned would make of the jazz scene today?   
Ann Alex.   

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