The duo of Mark Prescott and Clive Williams play Stephane Delicq’s tune, “Vivre,” at their June 2013 concert.
I wrote about Vivant — the duo of Clive Williams, melodeon, and Mark Prescott, violin — some months ago, including some lengthy commentary by Clive himself! At the time I was enthusing about their first recording. Clive mentioned that a second disc was in the works. It’s here.
Tree of Life builds on the strengths of its predecesor with a sort of whirling romantic simplicity. There’s a bit more of the melancholy here then on the first. And at one point these English and French tunes actually evoked a Russian winter to me. Though that could simply be because I’m reading Dostoyevsky at the moment (for which this recording provides a perfect soundtrack).
This isn’t meant to be a proper review. Rather, I’m hoping to call your attention to beautiful work being done by two artists in a way that suits the music, the instruments, and me. Go to Vivant’s bandcamp page to stream, download, or order.
Vivant: Derriere les Carreaux / Knife Edge
Before you do anything else, give that track a listen. Careful, though. One can, if one is the type, fall into the beauty of it. Vivant, a duo of fiddler Mark Prescott and accordéonist Clive Williams (who has been mentioned here before, and who is well-known as one of the senior partners over at melodeon.net) has an amazing touch. Lyrical, precious, sweeping … dare I say it? … pretty. I was going to write more extensively about the recording, but after I asked him a few questions, Clive offered the following, eloquent account Vivant’s approach, history, and new album coming up.
by Clive Williams
|To stream in its entirety for FREE go HERE|
Mark and I met at our local music session, the Vaults Bar Sunday session in Stony Stratford. It just so happened that we both happened to go for the first time on the same session, and happened to sit next to each other, and enjoyed playing together. I did some playing with Mark, and some playing with a fantastic guitarist, Chris Boland who I’d met through GIG CB (The George Inn Giant Ceili Band), and we then tried doing trio stuff together. It was very good, but not long after, Chris relocated to Liverpool and we dropped back to being a duo. A little while later, Mark had a year off doing round-the-world stuff, and when he came back, I got him involved with GIG CB, along with a couple of other fine chaps… and introduced him to the world of french dance music via our GIG CB Gennetines gigs where we go each year. And we did our first CD shortly after, as a way of getting back into playing together as a duo again – that was about 2001!
On the recording, you’ll hear 3 boxes – mostly the Castagnari Mory in D/G, with the semi-unisonoric layout that makes that A minor drone on the opening track, “After Hours,” possible. Try playing that on a standard melodeon! While it doesn’t actually give you more chords over a normal 12 bass, unisonorics add a lot of textural possibilities; you can play them normally, drone the bass note, drone the chord, hold a G chord drone while playing D, Bm, C, chord sequences over the top, and all manner of crazy stuff. It’s great for developing a bass “story” during a track, like in the Tallis’ Canon, where the tune on the melody end is more or less consistent all the way through; it’s the bass that varies. You’ll also hear a Hohner Model I 1930’s box in C/F, on “Carousel,” and “Mazurka Rigal,” and on a couple of tracks; “Benjamin’s,” and “Corpus Christi Carol,” the melody is played on a Castagnari Lilly in A/D. I’ve still got all three boxes, and you can see each of them in my youtube videos.
With one exception, Mark’s composition, “Julie,” the music is as it would be played live; i.e. in concerts we can play these pieces as played on the CD – there are no overdubs or ‘special guests’ – one of my bugbears is musicians who do a great live act, but when they come to do a CD, feel the need to spice it up by adding a bit of guitar here, a bit of drums there, and before you know it, they’ve got a sound which is nothing like the magnificent live sound which made you buy the CD in the first place.
So, when we play this stuff out, it’s quite similar to how we play it on the CD, albeit that we’ve both developed as musicians since then, so the nuances will have changed. It’s not arranged note by note – we simply listen to each other as we play, and complement each other. It also helps of course that without any guitarist/bass player/etc, I’ve got pretty much free rein to do whatever I want on the bass end without clashing. We like playing in churches; we do occasional gigs in my local parish church in Stony Stratford, where the acoustic is just amazing – our slower paced stuff suits the natural reverb of the church perfectly. We’ll be playing there again, in mid June, when hopefully we should have our long overdue second album ready.
The second album, by the way, will be just like the first; just the 2 of us playing, gentle but sweeping stuff, using the Mory and the C/F Hohner, and again played exactly as we would play it live.
Go to Vivant’s bandcamp site to stream the album in its entirety for free. You can also purchase or download it there.
I don’t post many polkas (or any, really), but I do play them in the comfort of my home and at dances, and I do love them! They just aren’t as interesting to me as the other types of tunes I play (bourrées, mazurkas, waltzes, etc.), so I leave them for others. A recent video by Melodeon.net doyen Clive Williams has had me rethinking this. His performance, below, of two polkas is a thing of beauty, with the left-hand adding tremendously to the colors of these fairly basic tunes.
For my other post on the elusive, well-played polka, check out Rikke van Ommeren.