John Potter and The Dowland Project

John Potter and The Dowland Project

The Dowland Project began as an artistic collaboration between John Potter and ECM’s Manfred Eicher, and was an attempt to re-discover the essence of renaissance song from the point of view of a modern performer. John suggested Dowland and Manfred Eicher proposed augmenting the obligatory early music players with jazz musicians. The first recording for ECM brought together John Surman, Barry Guy, Maya Homburger and Stephen Stubbs and was a Sunday Times Record of the Year. The group made its live debut at the Bremen Musikfest, and has since performed on both sides of the Atlantic including St Patrick’s Cathedral New York, the Munich Opera House and the Festival de Musica Visual, Lanzarote. A second album – ‘Charming Sleep’ took the process a stage further with a similar treatment of English and Italian songs from the post-Dowland generation.

Potter Dowland 1John Dowland: In Darkness Let Me Dwell
September 19, 1999
A fascinating project initiated by Hilliard Ensemble tenorist John Potter with producer Manfred Eicher, which re-examines the beautiful songs of the great sixteenth century composer from a present-day perspective. Potter: ‘This is the first time anyone’s approached Dowland not from an ‘early music’ angle, but simply as music. We’re working with Dowland as though he were still with us.’ The subject matter of the songs, with despair and ‘alienation’ uppermost, is entirely pertinent for our times, and the exceptional ensemble ranged around John Potter restores an improvisational flexibility to the music.
John Potter Voice
The Dowland Project
Stephen Stubbs Chitarrone, Baroque Guitar
John Surman Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
Maya Homburger Baroque Violin
Barry Guy Double-Bass

Potter Dowland 2The Dowland Project: Care-charming Sleep
October 20, 2003
Extending the work begun on the celebrated ‘In Darkness Let Me Dwell’, ex-Hilliard Ensemble singer John Potter and the group now known as The Dowland Project continue to restore the craft of improvisation to the music of the early Baroque. Five highly individual musicians turn now to Purcell, Monteverdi, Cipriano da Rore, Robert Johnson and others, interpreting their madrigals and songs with great imagination and freedom, on an album of intensely lyrical, richly melodic music.
John Potter Tenor
Stephen Stubbs Lute
John Surman Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet
Barry Guy Double-Bass
Maya Homburger Baroque Violin

Potter Dowland 3Romaria
March 18, 2008
With a revised line-up, John Potter’s Dowland Project expands its repertoire on its third album, freely exploring love songs, chants and motets from the 12th century to the present by Oswald von Wolkenstein, Orlando di Lasso, Josquin Desprez and others including the anonymous composers of the Carmina Burana manuscript. New to the Project is Miloš Valent, the vibrant violinist and violist from Slovakia who is equally at home in early music and in the gypsy and folk musics of eastern Europe. Like English reedman John Surman and American lutenist Stephen Stubbs he is also able to improvise beyond the traditions: these richly atmospheric pieces are reborn in the interaction of the players.
John Potter Tenor
The Dowland Project
Miloš Valent Violin, Viola
John Surman Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Recorder, Bass Recorder
Stephen Stubbs Baroque Guitar, Vihuela

Potter Dowland 4Night Sessions
June 24, 2013
From its inception, John Potter’s Dowland Project has drawn upon different musical traditions including those of ‘early music’ and improvisation. These “Night Sessions” emphasize the Project’s improvisational flexibility and resourcefulness, as the musicians create new music in the moment, sometimes with medieval poetry as inspirational reference and guide. There are also a number of ‘daytime’ pieces worked up, Potter notes, from small amounts of notation: ‘Menino Jesus à Lapa’ is based on Portuguese pilgrim song fragments and ‘Theoleptus 22’ built around a Byzantine chant. Lute fantasias are taken from Dalza’s Intabolatura de Lauto (Venice, 1508) and Attaignant’s Tres breve et familiere introduction…a jouer toutes chansons (Paris, 1529). The oldest compositions are ‘Can vei la lauzeta mover’ – a love song by the 12th century troubadour Bernart de Ventadorn, and ‘Fumeux fume’ by the 14thcentury avant-gardist Solage. Two incarnations of the Dowland Project are heard here, the original band with Potter, Stephen Stubbs and John Surman joined by Barry Guy and Maya Homburger, and the revised line-up with Milos Valent on violin and viola.
John Potter Tenor
The Dowland Project
Stephen Stubbs Lute, Chitarrone, Baroque Guitar, Vihuela
John Surman Soprano Saxophone, Bass Clarinet, Percussion
Maya Homburger Baroque Violin
Miloš Valent Violin, Viola
Barry Guy Double Bass

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