Alpha Productions' Nobody's Jig: Mr. Playford's English Dancing Master appears to be the debut outing on disc by a French period instrument ensemble under the great name of Les Witches. This collection is made up of late seventeenth and early eighteenth century dances initially published in John Playford's English Dancing Master and related sources. Nobody's Jig: Mr. Playford's English Dancing Master is a nicely chosen program, and certainly makes for pleasant listening, as Les Witches realizes and harmonizes these mostly monophonic dances with a "Broken Consort" of violin, flute, lute/guitar, viola da gamba, and clavichord/cistern, or some smaller combination derived thereof. The 32-page booklet is handsomely decorated with sometimes-oblique black and white images of the group in combination with more photo essay-styled pictures.
Unfortunately, overall the music has no muscle and doesn't really inspire one to dance. The manner in which Les Witches handle pieces such as Woodycock tend to be laid-back, somber, folksy, and rather similar to the way that they play several other pieces on this disc. Some of the music is good; for example, their rendering of Drive the cold winter away/The Beggar Boy maintains at least some sense of forward momentum. Nevertheless, an awful lot of the music is centered on the flute, and after a while it gets monotonous -- percussion instruments are utilized only sparingly.
There is an obvious counterpoint between the approach of Les Witches and that of the Baltimore Consort; and if one likes Baroque dances performed in a manner that would play well on "A Prairie Home Companion," then by all means, this is for you. While it is certainly unusual to find a European period instrument group that sounds like a North American one, it looks like Les Witches will need to move forward from Nobody's Jig: Mr. Playford's English Dancing Master in order to deliver an album that is worthy of their name.