Top positive review
149 people found this helpful
on 24 September 2002
On paper the idea for this recording would have made an interesting suggestion- Norwegian modern jazz saxophone player meets English vocal quartet, and use medieval to renaissance sacred choral music as the basis of improvisation. Jan Garbarek has made a lot of CD's in his time signed to ECM, and these have, in my opinion, a wide range of success. Some recordings are often quite cliched and cheesy. This CD is possibly the best he has made. Possibly one of the best anyone will ever make.
The mood of the singers is dramatically sombre. There is a distinctly pure tone. There is no vibrato, no fast pieces. In the monastery where this was recorded there is a lot of reverb. This all leads to the transcendental effect of the music, it really feels as if some of the peace of the monastery has been captured and held in the music. A semi-lethargic quality is provided, in that we feel as if the music freezes us in time, or perhaps draws us out of time. The sound quality is perfect, we feel drawn out of life, and even provided with a different perspective of life, though more of a detachment from it. The singing operates in this fantastic manner, at once peaceful and dramatic, at once disturbing, awe-inspiring, and comforting. Added to this is the sax.
In the pieces where the sax provides a melody line it interweaves beautifully, involving itself with the singing, then dancing away, at times sympathising with the singers, at other times mocking them with bizarre super impositions. One minute identifying with the music, the next dancing away carelessly. Where the singing operates on a transcendental level, the sax seems to operate on all other levels, free from the necessary restrain of the singers. Where the music of the singing is too dramatic the sax detaches us carelessly. Where the sax provides the pedal it almost operates a reversal of the roles, allowing David James' sublime countertenor take the melodic role.
This music can be listened to at all times. However, on first getting it, dim some lights, feel at peace, put it on in as much surround as possible. You have a heart of stone if shivers aren't sent up your spine, or you are forced to tears.
This review may sound a bit over the top, but reserve judgement until you have heard it. It changed much of my musical thinking.
Its just quite good, y' know?