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Travis Sullivan's Björkestra: I Go Humble (2013)

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Travis Sullivan's Björkestra: I Go Humble How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Björk isn't a member of the jazz community, but the jazz community has had no problem embracing her. Musicians as different as vocalist Kate McGarry
Kate McGarry
Kate McGarry

vocalist
and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts
Jeff
Jeff "Tain" Watts
b.1960
drums
have explored the eclectic Icelandic singer's work and put their own stamp on her intoxicating music, but they each left her catalog after a single-song visit. Saxophonist/Arranger Travis Sullivan
Travis Sullivan
Travis Sullivan
b.1971
sax, alto
is on the other end of the spectrum. He set up shop in her world in 2004 and never truly left.

Sullivan's cleverly named Björkestra puts a big band spin on its namesake's music, performing smartly written charts that reflect the intentions of Björk's originals while also speaking to the creative spirit of jazz. The arrangements are loyal to a point, but things are opened up a bit, allowing individual personalities in the band to make their mark; and what a band it is! When this group first came together, its members were virtual unknowns, but things have changed. Front woman Becca Stevens
Becca Stevens
Becca Stevens

vocalist
, for example, has quickly become one of the most admired vocalists on the scene, and she's not the only notable name on the roster; trombonist Ryan Keberle
Ryan Keberle
Ryan Keberle
b.1980
trombone
, baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian
Lauren Sevian
Lauren Sevian
b.1979
sax, baritone
, pianist Art Hirahara
Art Hirahara
Art Hirahara
b.1971
piano
, and a whole bunch of other rising star heavy hitters are in the Björkestra's line-up.

I Go Humble, recorded live at New York's Jazz Standard in 2009, is the follow-up to the band's debut—the studio-made Enjoy! (Koch, 2008). That initial offering featured ten reworked Björk pieces, but only three of those numbers—"Hyperballad," "Army Of Me," and "Hunter"—appear here; the live version of each one sounds great, but since they've appeared in similar fashion before, the other five numbers are the real finds. "Venus As A Boy" rides gleefully over a swinging rhythm section, with detours into Afro-Cuban territory, and "I Go Humble" lives in a funky space. Saxophonist Sean Nowell
Sean Nowell
Sean Nowell
b.1973
sax, tenor
's arrangement of "Isobel" transforms the piece into slowly unfolding mystery music that builds behind cross streaming saxophones, eventually finding release with the arrival of Hirahara's solo. "Unravel," with its subtle laptop effects and hypnotic vocals, completely captures the Björk ethos, and the beautiful-to-bold "Joga" brings the album to an end.

Sullivan has invested much of his time, effort and soul into his arrangements of Björk's music and it shows. I Go Humble should be a source of great pride for its creator.

Track Listing: Hyperballad; Venus As A Boy; Hunter; I Go Humble; Isobel; Army Of Me; Unravel; Joga.

Personnel: Travis Sullivan: alto saxophone; Becca Stevens: vocals; Ian Cook: laptop programming; Sean Nowell: tenor saxophone; Lauren Sevian: baritone saxophone; Ryan Keberle: trombone; Alan Ferber: trombone; Kevin Bryar: trumpet; Eli Asher: trumpet; Kelly Pratt: trumpet; Art Hirahara: piano; Yoshi Waki: bass; Joe Abbatantuono: drums.

Record Label: Zoho Music

Style: Modern Jazz


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