Please turn your hymnals to number 137 and join with the clarinets in, “Ancient of Days”.
First Line: Ancient of Days
Name: ANCIENT OF DAYS. (ALBANY)
Meter: 11 10, 11 10.
Tempo: In unison, with dignity
Music: John Albert Jeffrey, 1855-1929
Text: William Croswell Doane, 1832-1913
Fairly rhythmically and harmonically interesting, this one gave me something to chew on and develop over its short course. Not often you see dotted eighth notes and 16th notes in hymns!
Jeffery (sometimes misspelled as Jeffrey) began playing the organ at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Plymouth at age 14, taking over his father’s position. He emigrated to America in 1876 and settled in Albany, New York. He developed a chorus and directed the music at St. Agnes School, and played the organ at the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral. He left for Yonkers, New York, in 1893, and served at the First Presbyterian Church. Later, he taught music at the New England Conservatory.
Felice Giardini was born in Turin. When it became clear that he was a child prodigy, his father sent him to Milan. There he studied singing, harpsichord and violin but it was on the latter that he became a famous virtuoso. By the age of 12, he was already playing in theater orchestras. In a famous incident about this time, Giardini, who was serving as assistant concertmaster (i.e. leader of the orchestra) during an opera, played a solo passage for violin which the composer Niccolò Jommelli had written. He decided to show off his skills and improvised several bravura variations which Jommelli had not written. Although the audience applauded loudly, Jommelli, who happened to be there, was not pleased and suddenly stood up and slapped the young man in the face. Giardini, years later, remarked, “it was the most instructive lesson I ever received from a great artist.”
ECM has always been eclectic in it’s releases. This atmospheric mashup of Jazz, Classical, and UK Folk music isn’t exactly the exception, as the rule. June Tabor is a great folk vocalist and her partners in Quercus are Huw Warren and Iain Ballamy, Piano and Saxophone, respectively. If I had any complaints, it might be that Nightfall is just a tad too pleasant.
Most people trace the modern Soprano Sax tone, flute-like, mellow, and largely without vibrato, to the playing of Lucky Thompson. Eschewing the harsh tone and wide vibrato of early players like Bechet, Thompson set the stage for immensely commercially popular players like Grover Washington Jr and the much maligned Kenny Gorelick. Also, as far as I know, just about the only Bebop Soprano player.
A pretty strictly Bebop affair, great work here from the whole group. I think, especially, the expressive cymbal work from Connie Kay stands out.