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Audio CD, September 13, 1994
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 13, 1994)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: ECM Records
  • ASIN: B0000031YD
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #225,902 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description


"What is this music?" Fundamentally, it's an exploration of what happens when an improvisatory instrumental voice (saxophone) is placed into the world of early vocal music, which has elements of both improvisation and formal structure. In reality, it's an adventure in which the four male voices of the Hilliard Ensemble travel the 14th- and 15th-century territory of Morales and Dufay, visit the 12th century of Perotin, and roam even earlier ages of plainchant, accompanied by the always sensitive and tasteful, often astonishing, saxophone improvisations of jazz master Jan Garbarek. Sometimes, these new melodies simply accompany; sometimes they transform the common--a routine minor chord, for instance--into a sublime, indescribable moment. The answer to the above question is easy, but it's different for each listener. --David Vernier

Customer Reviews

It is perfect meditation music; it is both relaxing and exciting at once.
C. David LaRoche
This is a song that will get into your soul and stay with you for the rest of your life.
M. Hargreaves
I'd highly recommend this album to anyone looking for mellow, yet interesting music.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on August 6, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Purists might have some problems with this recoding -- as some of the other reviews reflect. Some of the pieces are so ancient that authors and dates are unknown, chants that could be called Gregorian -- but, as the notes by Hilliard countertenor David Jones point out, 'Before Gregory and Charlemagne got their bureaucratic hands on them, these ancient songs had lives of their own.' Others date from the 12th to 15th centuries. All were written to exalt the faith felt by their authors, to share the joys and hope they felt in their hearts as sound -- and that spirit flows through this release.'

Recorded in the Monastery of St. Gerold, which adds its own ambience to the project, these four fine vocalists along with Jan Garbarek -- one of the most innovative musicians that modern Europe has produced -- let the music flow through them and into the ears and souls of the listener. Garbarek's saxophone seamlessly integrates itself as an added voice -- a testament to the 'vocal' style of playing that has long distinguished his work.

There is no name for this music -- another fact pointed out by Potter in his notes -- and that's something that frees it from preconceptions and expectations. I strongly recommend to the potential listener to enter into this experience with as open a mind as possible -- there's a world of beauty, reverence and emotion waiting on this disc. It would be a shame to allow what might seem an odd combination of musicians and styles to colour its absorption.

Garbarek has ventured outside of the 'jazz' realm on other occasions -- notably, he has explored his Norwegian heritage by delving into traditional music (check out his amazing album ROSENSFOLE, with singer Agnes Buen Garnas). The Hilliard Ensemble has made many fine recordings, presenting music from a broad range of time and style and form. The two met recorded together again in 1998, producing the album MNEMOSYNE -- another beautiful, timeless work.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By ROGER L. FOREMAN on January 9, 2002
Format: Audio CD
This is one of the most innovative and sublime CDs in my expansive collection. I'll stay away from trying to explain what centuries the pieces were written in, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line: they were all written before the saxophone was invented. Therefore, Garbarek's "intrusions" should seem as such, interrupting the Hilliard Ensemble's vocalizing. Quite the contrary, though. Garbarek's first notes, although somewhat unexpected, seem quite appropriate and fitted. His "improvisations" around the traditional structure of the vocals are sometimes subtle, sometimes more upfront, but always in keeping with the spirit of the original pieces. He winds and weaves his way around and through the vocal arrangements like a fifth vocalist--no restraints or boundaries but with a keen ear for what will sound good where.
This CD is on my very short list of classical "desert island" discs and ranks right up there with Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma's HUSH for improvisational yet traditional music, with ingenious wrinkles thrown in. It's hard to call it straight classical, but it isn't exactly jazz, either. The styles are merged beautifully. The best metaphor I can think of would be a braid: separate entities intertwined and working together for a common goal and a common effect.
Anyone who claims to be a fan of good music--jazz, classical, or whatever--should check out this CD. It is a bit on the mellow side, so don't expect a Keith Jarrett improvisational explosion or a thunderous symphonic event. In the vein of the works of Anonymous 4, another spectacular classical vocal group, this CD is a meditative, almost spiritual experience. It will not disappoint!!
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Mark Swinton on January 9, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Dr John Potter, in his liner note, states that he and the others featured on this disc "don't have a name" for this potent combination of Renaissance sacred music and jazz improvisation on saxophone. He might have called it "the music of all time"- which would not, in my view, be as presumptious as it sounds. This music is rivetting- it can calm shattered nerves, or it can fire your imagination and send you into new heights of meditative thought. My personal liking for this disc is that the producers included three recordings of the same work, "Parce Mihi" by Morales. Two of these feature saxophone (to show that no two performances are the same) and 'bookend' the disc; the other is placed more or less centrally in the programme and omits the saxophone in case you would prefer to hear the work as originally intended. This was a most thoughtful gesture- but then again, the whole disc oozes thoughtfulness. Essential listening in my honest opinion.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Marius Gabriel on July 15, 2005
Format: Audio CD
If you haven't heard any of these tracks before, then almost nothing can prepare you for them. I do feel sorry for those listeners whose sensibilities have been outraged, and who believe that these songs are set in stone, and that no kind of improvisation is legal. The effect must be like seeing (as Prince Charles remarked of a modern building in London) a carbuncle on the face of a loved old friend.

Horrified reactions are, however, in the minority, since this album has sold in immense quantities -- and the reason is the ravishing beauty of the music, which is accessible to anyone with musical ears.

As with several Garbarek recordings, the sax occasionally seems louder than necessary, but then Garbarek must be a difficult performer to record, since his tonal range is so huge.

The natural melodies that flow from Garbarek's three horns have always had an air of belonging half a millennium away from the present; and his genius as a performer enables him to add a fifth voice to these ancient compositions that I am certain the original composers would have found far less shocking than the modern listeners who think them sacrilegious.

This music is heavenly and indescribable, but I urge anyone on this page to listen to the samples (bearing in mind that the sound is ravishing on a proper stereo) and make up your own mind.

Music is nobody's loved old friend, but a great city that needs to keep growing for ever, and this is a wonderful new building to dwell in and perceive beauty.
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