It was in the spring of 2009 when I saw Gilad’s Orient House Ensemble and the Sigamos String Quartet performing their Charlie Parker with Strings project. It was the first time I had actually seen two such quartets work together. This meeting of two disciplines, the improvisational and the formal. But instead of transporting me to 50’s New York, I was reminded of Neil Ardley’s shimmering 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.
Some eighteen months later I was sequestered alone in a friend’s remote farmhouse high on a hillside in Haute Provence in the hot Indian summer of 2011. Gilad’s In Loving Memory of America was receiving repeated play. On Youtube one night 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 but had never heard these extraordinary songs, Hélicoptère and Le Drapeau Noir. The idea came like a storm. There was a record I needed in my collection that didn’t exist yet.
The following day I contacted Gilad asking if he would be interested in a project. He was. I contacted Matt Bourne who I had met 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 in Tarifa and invited him to record in London. 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 Eastcote Studios in March 2013. Peter Doig kindly created the extraordinary artwork for this album and its companion, Sine Qua Non Plus, in December.
My original brief for this album was that it be intimate and unashamedly romantic….while avoiding cheesiness at all cost. It’s an album about love, its manifestations and its symptoms.
For obvious reasons, the group of musicians 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.
With all respect to SG.