Fabliaux (Monash Art Ensemble with Dave Douglas)
"Dave Douglas represents to me the quintessential 21st century musician, a perpetually curious musical explorer with a panoramic overview of the various traditions of which he is a part, and which have seen him span musical worlds from Horace Silver and Mary Lou Williams to John Zorn and Shigeto. His compositional vision has resulted in many fine and unique works. When he agreed to create a new work with the Monash Art Ensemble in 2014, I knew we were in for something groundbreaking; that he chose a medieval form as the basis for this project was as intriguing as it was exciting.
"The Monash Art Ensemble (MAE) was founded in 2012 as a collaboration between the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and the Australian Art Orchestra (AAO), which I established in 1993. The AAO has always explored the liminal zones between notation and improvisation, between musical cultures, dialects and histories. The MAE has continued in that tradition, bringing students and staff of the School together with veteran AAO players, some of Australia's finest improvisers.
"As Johan Huizinga described so lovingly in his immortal The Autumn of the Middle Ages, the 14th century was a time of extremes, the likes of which we can only dimly imagine now, a time when light and darkness were concepts of a physical, psychological and spiritual immediacy that defined life in all its aspects. It was a time of heraldry, of ritual, of esoteric speculation, conflict and pestilence. Rich pickings, therefore for the crafters of fabliaux, the vernacular, often bawdy verses that lie behind such immortal masterpieces as Boccaccio's Decameron and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. It is the flavor of this literature that Dave has adopted as the platform for these nine beautiful pieces.
"Dave presents us with the 'distant mirror' as Barbara Tuchman described that period, refracting the pre-tonal harmony, hockets, polyphonic and numerical complexity and coarse timbres of medieval music through the prism of a contemporary and eclectic jazz language, by turns colorful, raucous, tender, chaotic and majestic. It has been deeply satisfying to be a part of this project; I hope you, the listener, have as much fun with Fabliaux as we did in playing it."
Paul Grabowsky, pianist / composer