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RockingHorse CHAN20219
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Rocking Horse Road
Jacqui Dankworth (voice)
Brodsky Quartet
rec. June 2021, RAK Studio 1, London (Brodsky Quartet) and September 2021, Les Musardières Studio, France (Jacqui Dankworth)
No texts except for The Triple Foole
CHANDOS CHAN20219 [73:57]

The musical relationship between Jacqui Dankworth and the Brodsky Quartet dates back almost two decades, back indeed to the days when Daniel Rowland was first violinist, not Krysia Osostowicz. Over that time there have been many performances across musical genres and Dankworth’s father, Sir John, contributed to their song book as has Jacqui’s celebrated bass playing brother, Alec, amongst many others. This album is a kind of legacy project, one that by and large replicates in its programmatic order, the concerts they give together and that enshrines their collaboration on disc for the first time. Given, too, that the Brodsky has worked with Paul McCartney, Björk and Elvis Costello, the quartet is thoroughly at home with projects of this kind – and two of those named performers are also represented in the 17-track album.

This is a richly varied selection that crosses boundaries. Whether it’s crossover – whatever that really means in this context – is a question that, it seems to me, barely needs asking. Weill and Britten (in his setting of The Salley Gardens, though it’s arranged for voice and quartet by Paul Cassidy) are the names that will appeal to the classically-minded, I suppose, though the Weill setting is Speak Low, in a fine, spry arrangement by Sir John Dankworth. I think it’s best to let the song selections and their ordering dictate the pace.

DPA MacManus is better known as Elvis Costello and his is the title track, once again arranged by Paul Cassidy, the Brodasky’s violist, who catches the percussive vitality of the original whilst transferring it to the new all-string medium. It also vests the music with a rather countryfied feel. Alec Dankworth’s Lorca setting Narcisso has been in their repertoire for some time now and its languid, flamenco-hinting performance – sung in Spanish – is beautifully done. One of the songs – and arrangements – I like best is that of Narrow Daylight, co-written by Costello and Diana Krall but with the music composed by Krall alone. Krall’s concert performances of this are always gorgeous, her plangent self-accompanied chords rich in feeling, but this arrangement is invariably perhaps airier and possessing a more romantic wash.

Harvey Brough contributes three Songs of Love, one setting words by Edmund Waller – the inevitable, Go Lovely Rose - one by Shakespeare (Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day) and John Donne’s The Triple Foole. Forget Quilter’s Edwardiana in the first named, though Brough is hardly avant-gardist, whilst the Donne setting opens with viol imitations and hints of Britten’s string writing. For his Shakespeare setting, a dangerous errand, Brough focuses on crisp rhythmic figures. I prefer how he deals with Donne.

Close to You is full of avuncular charm and the bluesy Sittin' on Top of the World is another arrangement by Sir John D that sees Jacqui don an American accent. The Brodsky’s cellist Jacqueline Thomas arranged Like Someone in Love for voice and cello so the Two Jacquis turn it into a duo. Thomas opens solo, evoking the sound of one of Bach’s cello suites perhaps, and later adds her own cellistic commentary and obbligato to the warmly rich vocals. A delightful track.

Jacqui Dankworth has composed one of the pieces. Please Answer is an attractively personal song, arranged by her husband, Charlie Wood. Her other credits are for words. On Time Takes Its Time, with music by David Gordon, she takes her most airy vocalise and there’s a jazz-drenched violin solo to complement it. Reach Out for the Light, with music from Wood, reinforces the lyrically attractive but melancholic expression of some of the music. Not everything is sweetness; not everything is light.

Dankworth has great clarity of diction – she’s an actress and well as a performer – but it’s still rather unusual for Chandos to print the words of only one piece, John Donne’s The Triple Foole. Perhaps the metaphysics demands to be seen as well as heard or maybe there are copyright considerations or, perhaps, it wasn’t felt necessary to include the remainder of the lyrics.

The pieces were recorded in two locations, Dankworth in a French studio, the quartet in London. The warmly textured results seal a beautiful sounding album that celebrates a variety of music, popular or otherwise, with serious integrity.

Jonathan Woolf

DPA MACMANUS (b. 1954)
Rocking Horse Road [4:28]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Speak Low [4:17]
Jacqui DANKWORTH (b. 1963)
Please Answer arr. Charlie Wood [4:09]
Traditional Air
The Sally Gardens arr. voice and piano by Benjamin Britten, arr. voice and string quartet by Paul Cassidy [2:57]
BJÖRK (b. 1965)/David ARNOLD (b.1962)/Jah WOBBLE (b. 1958)
Play Dead arr. Jacqueline Thomas [3:30]
Alec DANKWORTH (b. 1960)
Narcisso arr. James Pearson [4:44]
Diana KRALL (b. 1964)
Narrow Daylight arr. Paul Cassidy [3:40]
Charlie WOOD (b. 1967)
Patience [4:50]
Harvey BROUGH (b. 1957)
Go Lovely Rose (A Song of Love I) [3:52]
The Triple Foole (A Song of Love II) [2:42]
Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day (A Song of Love III) [3:27]
Al HOFFMAN (1902-1960)/Carl G. LAMPL (1898-1962)/Jerry LIVINGSTON (1909-1987)
Close to You, original arr. Nelson Riddle transcr. voice and string quartet by the Brodsky Quartet [3:56]
David GORDON (b. 1965)
Time Takes Its Time [6:46]
Charlie WOOD
Reach Out for the Light [4:38]
Walter VINSON (1901-1975)/Alonzo ('Lonnie') CHATMON (1887-1950)
Sittin' on Top of the World arr. Sir John Dankworth [3:53]
Jimmy VAN HEUSEN (1913-1990)
Like Someone in Love, arr. voice and cello by Jacqueline Thomas [3:31]
STING (b. 1951)
Fragile arr. Paul Cassidy [7:22]

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