cast a bell
CD only BEJOCD-33

'When Mark Emerson first sent me this recording I was almost frightened by its strength and flair. On 'Cast a bell' three virtuosos explore John Playford's great reservoir of melodies with daring and ceaseless invention to create a music that is in turn edgy, exquisite and darkly mesmerising - even psychedelic. This is an album with an emphatically live feel, and charged with raw energy. Yet the recording is lit too by passages of delicate introspection and formal beauty. I have heard nothing quite like it before - it seems to me to redefine the very nature of English roots music.'
Tim Healey, Beautiful Jo Records

What the Critics have said...

'A Magnetic debut album'

'Mark Emerson (violin), Andy Cutting (accordion), and Tim Harries (double bass) mark the 350th anniversary of John Playford's The English Dancing Master with an album that might have been subtitled Deeper into Playford as the trio uncover and explore sides to the music that you'd never suspected were there. One has heard this material done primly on pianos and with raw energy on period instruments (a group led by John Wright on a 1978 LP for the Chant du Monde label) but here Emerson aims to pursue both the darkness and the beauty he finds in the tunes and his collaborators are with him every step of the way. The way the music shifts - often almost imperceptibly - between light and shade, introspection and extroversion is all the more impressive for each track having been recorded as a whole, without editing or overdubs. The original jaunty dance tunes are never that far away but some sets, such as the 16-minute title track wend in and out some almost abstract passages before returning to the theme. Emerson includes a single tune of his own, Under Alder, a piano solo so spare as to be almost a sequence of single sustained notes. This same one is reprised at the end of a version of Bobbing Joe that could pass for a pipe lament for some massacred Hebridean chieftain. This is definitely not Playford-as-we-know it (and it would take a modern ballet group to dance to it) but a remarkable work of exploration, imagination and collective musical intuition'.

'2001 is barely half way through, but surely Cast a Bell is already destined to become album of the year. This is one of those rare works of genius that comes along every now and then to pull the comfortable rug from under your feet and knock the wind out of your cosy sails. The tunes, from Playford's English Dancing Master, may be 350 years old, but the music is now and shows not a trace of that fey, olde-worlde sound so often associated with Playford.
Andy Cutting excels himself, pushing his genius ever further. Playing alongside Mark Emerson's stunning fiddle, viola and dreamlike piano, they create, between them, a beauty (an often dark beauty) and spine-tingling tension. Tim Harries' double bass underpins the melody, adding further richness and complexity.
The album was recorded at Gregynog's fabled music room, ideal for capturing the vitality and brilliance of the music and lending it a live feeling.
After the first few bars of Kettledrum you know that you're in for something extraordinary. It's almost impossible to pick favourites, but this and the epic Millfield/Grimstock/Cast a Bell stand out as being the best of the very best.'
Boz Boswell, Taplas

'Astonishingly inventive and breathtakingly skilful... a spiritual journey that often sounds as threatening as it does enticing'
Kit Bailey, BBC Online

'1651 was the year John Playford published the first edition of the English Dancing Master, a collection of English folk dances and their associated tunes. Violinist Mark Emerson has had a long standing relationship with the Playford collection, reintroducing the dances into the English ceilidh repertoire as a member of the wonderful Pyewackett in the early 1980s, and causing some degree of outrage in the process by playing Playford tunes wirth new-fangled rock and jazz influences.
Now in this 350th anniversary year of the first publication, Mark Emerson has started a new chapter in the history of Playford, linking up with diatonic accordion wizard Andy Cutting and Steeleye Span double-bassist Tim Harries to create an album of true shining riches from the Playford treasure trove. As Mark writes in the sleeve notes, the tunes are mysterious in origin: there is a darkness in their quirky rhythms and angular lines and it is the darkness and mystery which predominate through much of this rich, atmospheric, complex and sometimes almost introspective album.
For a recording of dance tunes by a band featuring such accomplished dance musicians, there might be some surprise on first listening to Cast a bell at how little actual straight ahead folk dance music there is on this CD. Surprise will however quickly turn to delight for whilst there are passages of tunes played as for the dance, many of the melodies are taken at a gentler pace allowing full reign for the melodies to reveal their hidden potential, developing the themes and harmonies and acting as the springboard for improvisatory passages of great power and grace. The standard of invention and playing is all the more appreciable in the knowledge that these tracks were recorded in one take there has been no overdubbing or editing There is fresh beauty to be found with every hearing of this album, from the stately jazz-tinged deconstruction of the opening Kettledrum through to the delicate hymn-like solo piano reading of Once I Loved which concludes the set. This is, quite simply, an absolute gem'.
Steve Mansfield , Living Tradition

'The playing is very fine'

1651 - live at the Holywell Music Room, Oxford
'Rich improvisations... a courageous and bravura display'
The Oxford Times, 7 Dec 01

'Serious, demanding, and quite spectacular.' Simon Heywood,
Stirrings magazine

ŌAs delicate and exquisite as a Fabergˇ eggÕ
Oxford Times

2001 saw the 350th anniversary of the 'English Dancing Master'. Formed by Mark Emerson, the ensemble 1651 draws its inspiration from that great mid-17th-century collection of dance tunes. From the melodies' quirky rhythms, angular lines and moments of sheer beauty the musicians spin intensely worked improvisations, taking the listener on an epic journey wherein the deep roots and strong spirit of a long-neglected English Music exert a powerful influence.
1651 are:
Mark Emerson (violin, viola, piano)
Andy Cutting (diatonic button accordion)
Tim Harries (double bass)


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