Recorded in 2001 and 2008, Night Sessions is the fourth album of the Dowland Project on ECM, drawing on music of the late Medieval and Renaissance periods as raw source material for improvisation. Leader John Potter is joined by Stephen Stubbs, John Surman, Barry Guy, Maya Homburger, and Milos Valent, all experts on antique and modern instruments who create a mysterious dialog between the past and present by crossing boundaries of style and expression. Much of the music they have reworked is anonymous, derived from fragmentary pieces or ancient chants, though there are a few pieces by known composers, such as Joan Ambrosio Dalza, Bernart de Ventadorn, Solage, and Pierre Attaingnant, and their music is also subjected to the group's unpredictable adaptations. This album is not for early music purists or people who like to put their music in neat cubbyholes, because the blending of consort music with avant-garde jazz and experimental vocalizations does not allow for easy categorization. Yet the album works surprisingly well on its own terms, not only because of its compelling feeling of darkness and melancholy, but also because it provides many inventive transformations and surprises that keep the listener thinking. It may be called crossover music for the sake of convenience, but Night Sessions really is sui generis.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson