In one of the more unusual and challenging forms of classical jazz, Bob Dorough and friends conceived The Medieval Jazz Quartet Plus Three to showcase the noble recorder in all its myriad shapes and sizes, in soprano, alto, tenor, and bass octaves. Singing just a bit but playing the recorder in the main, Dorough and his woodwind quartet plus a talented rhythm section interpret standards in a manner that might sound a bit whimsical, but is actually an honest and faithful re-creation of these tunes with a very different sonic palette. Guitarist Al Schackman is an integral part of these arrangements, while young bassist George Duvivier and drummer Paul Motian set the rhythmic wheels in a jazzy swing against the Baroque chamber sound of the recorders. The swinging aspect of the well-known song "How High the Moon" is given somewhat of a goofy flair, with segments for duets and trios within, but they all come together nicely. The four recorders play in tandem during "September Song" following a vocal passage by Dorough in slow, easy swing and stop-time passages. A darker, slinky, and stealthy approach to the obscure "Chloe" moves into easygoing swing, while "Lady Be Good" sports a vocal and three alto recorders. The four woodwindists play richly harmonic tenor recorders, crisscrossing among themselves during the solemn but startling "Mood Indigo," while the recorder consort alone brings Bach's style into the proceedings on "Autumn Leaves." A bouzouki and krumhorn are added in the Middle Eastern-tinged version of Eden Ahbez's "Nature Boy," a slow and lugubrious, mysterious take with producer Irv Kratka playing finger cymbals, adding to the exotic flair of the piece. This recording was done in 1961, a bold step considering Stan Kenton's usage of the little-known mellophone in his big band, and that world jazz music per se had not really been established by anyone except Yusef Lateef. Medieval might be a misleading moniker, but these pleasant sounds deserve a revisit from someone, in that their depth and passion are well represented on this most intriguing experiment.
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