I saw Gilad’s Orient House Ensemble performing their Bird with Strings project with the Sigamos String Quartet in the Spring of 2009. It was memorable concert in many ways. It was the first time I had actually seen two such quartets work together. This meeting of two disciplines, the improvised and the written. Jazz had been taking pages from the American songbook, dispensing with the lyrics and bending the melodies to its will for decades; Coltrane, Bill Evans, Mingus, Miles… the ‘standard’ was their launchpad. I have the Dial and Savoy recordings but I did not know Parker with Strings… I was suspicious at best… strings tended to be a blatant commercial ploy to sugar the pill for non-believers… but these new arrangements! I was reminded of Neil Ardley’s glorious original arrangements for jazz and small string ensemble, of sixties soundtracks and chamber pop… John Barry and Morricone, Cipriani and Nicolai, Roy Budd, Dankworth and Quincy Jones, Legrand and Colombier, Dusty and Scott and Gainsbourg. A vague idea was forming as I left the theatre that night.
Some eighteen months later, sequestered alone in a friend’s remote farmhouse high on a hillside in Haute Provence in the hot Indian summer of 2011 in order to get some writing done, I was instead going a little stir crazy. There was a small collection of CDs in my car, and Gilad’s In Loving Memory of America was receiving repeated play. One night I was entertaining myself with a Youtube Gainsbourg fest when I came across two tunes sung by the actress Mireille Darc. I had been quietly collecting Gainsbourg records since my first forays to Paris in the service of Coup d’Archet and L’Archet d’Or and had never before heard these extraordinary songs. Hélicoptère and Le Drapeau Noir. I played them again and again. Those fabulous melodies. The idea presented itself, fully formed.
The following day I found Gilad’s website, found the contact link and asked if he was interested in a project. I contacted Matt Bourne who I had met one dark and stormy night in Leeds earlier in the year. Emails and sporadic telephone calls continued over the months. Gilad introduced me to Ros. Decisions were made, lines were drawn. Ros began putting together her dream team. In the summer of 2012 I met Leo Lara playing his guitar on the street in Tarifa. Rehearsals began at Saint Mark’s Church St John’s Wood in October, recordings took place at Abbey Road Studio 2 later that month and in November. Mixing was completed at Philip Bagenal’s Eastcote Studios in March this year.
Heartfelt thanks to all involved for making a fever dream come true. You are all brilliant and I owe everything to you. We have agreed that this is not a Gilad or OHE project, so the group of musicians will share the name of the album, Sine Qua Non, from Serge’s line Tu étais la condition sine qua non de ma raison in Ballade de Melody Nelson.
The album will be available on deluxe double LP, CD and download in October 2013.
Watch this space.