A HAPPY MEETING OF THE RENAISSANCE AND JAZZ TRADITION!
Lawrence Zazzo, recently described by Rene Jacobs as 'the best countertenor NOW on the stage', is one of the foremost countertenors of this generation, much sought after by opera houses throughout the world. 'Byrdland' is his debut recital disc.
This is definitely NOT a crossover gimick, but a genuinely illuminating meeting of Jazz and Renaissance tradition. And the expressive variety and rhytmic subtlety of Zazzo's singing is further proof of the growth of a considerable artist.
Zazzo has a pure resonant voice well suited to his repertoire. The accompaniments by the saxophone quartet are surprisingly effective, often resembling a consort of viols with their smooth sound and depth of tone quality.
Of the 24 tracks, Zazzo is most impressive in Byrd's exquisite 'Lullaby' and Dowland's 'Flow My Tears'. In fact, I must say that I never thought that I , personally, would ever want to hear anyone but Michael Chance sing those two selections, but Zazzo is just as skilled (not better than MC). The Quartet comes into its own in items such as 'Dance of the Haymakers' (Purcell) and 'Fantasia in 4 parts' (Gibbons).
Zazzo writes that he finds a common ground between the melancholy nihilism of these songs and the "bittersweet, lonely sound" of legendary saxophonist, Charlie Parker; and the title 'Byrdland' is a pun on the famous New York Jazz Club.
If someone had told me (strict traditionalist that I am) that I would be buying 17th century odes accompanied by four saxophones, I would have howled with laughter!! But this is a tremendously exciting recording, and I would have been remiss if I had not purchased it. IT IS INDEED A RARE EXAMPLE OF SUCCESSFULLY REINVENTING 'EARLY' MUSIC.