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June 2001

John Dowland
In Darkness Let Me Dwell
ECM New Series

Lutist Stephen Stubbs, baroque violinist Maya Homburger and double-bassist Barry Guy join multireedist John Surman and tenor-vocalist/leader John Potter for 14 modern interpretations of Dowland's supremely sad ballads. You would usually find Dowland albums in the classical or early-music sections of the CD store, and despite the presence of Surman and Guy, that's almost certainly where In Darkness Let Me Dwell will be placed. While that's probably the best spot for it, there is improvisation on the album, specifically in the way the tunes are linked with free passages that allow the players using such relatively modern instruments as the double bass and the soprano saxophone, just enough space to make their own marks on centuries-old songs.

Potter has a gorgeous voice, and Surman is at his loveliest on the soprano sax and bass clarinet, but it's bassist Guy who steps out farthest on the improvisational ledge during segue ways. His playing bursts with the energy and extended techniques that have defined his playing for the last 30 years as Europe's most remarkable avant-garde bassist. While elements of In Darkness Let Me Dwell are radical relative to the compositions, the CD is one long ode to the joys of depression. Being blue has never sounded so appealing.

Originally published in June 2001
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