Elysian Fields is Australia’s only electric viola da gamba band, heralding the creation of a new and unique musical voice. Elysian Fields is the brainchild of viola da gambist, Jenny Eriksson, and leading jazz musicians, Matt Keegan, saxophones, and Matt McMahon, piano.
Eriksson is one of Australia’s leading acoustic viola da gamba players – the viola da gamba being a very old 7-string instrument with frets about the same size as a modern-day cello – and the only exponent of the electric version of her instrument. Since its inception in 2015 the band has been an ongoing experiment in creating new repertoire for a combination of instruments and voice that does not exist anywhere else in the world.
“Over the past three years we’ve gone about developing the ensemble in a largely intuitive way”, say Eriksson. “We’ve written and arranged charts and tried them out, learning as we go. Given the ancient roots of the viola da gamba – the viol family traces its origins back way well before that of the violin – it was inevitable that a multilayered dialogue has emerged between past and present. This involves elements of baroque, classical, jazz, world and folk music. The past-present conversation can be heard in the textures we create, the musical languages we explore and even the texts we’ve set to music.”
“What should I Say” takes its name from a remarkable new cycle of songs by pianist and band member, Matt McMahon. In this piece McMahon sets four poems by Thomas Wyatt, a courtier to King Henry VIII. At its world premiere jazz critic John Shand wrote: “Here was a head-spinning dialogue between half a millennium ago and now, and a sound as foreign as dreaming someone else's dreams. It emanated from Jenny Eriksson's electric viola da gamba, the only example in Australia.” Also featured is “Elysium”, an epic work by Matt Keegan and an original chart by bassist, Siebe Pogson.
Elysian Field’s influences are as broad as its member’s eclectic interests and include e.s.t., Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Tord Gustavson, Victor Wooten, Mats Norrefalk, Jean-Luc Ponty, Weather Report, Mara!, traditional Indian music, Irish and Swedish folk song, Jordi Savall, Marin Marais, John McLauglin, Steve Hunter, Pat Metheny, Jan Gunnar Hoff and Joni Mitchell.
Elysian Fields, Australia’s only electric viola da gamba ensemble, was formed by Jenny Eriksson, Matt Keegan and Matt McMahon in 2015. The band is an ongoing experiment in creating new improvised and composed repertoire for the electric viola da gamba – of which Eriksson is believed to be the only Australian exponent.
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Matt McMahon: What should I say: Four poems of Thomas Wyatt