Until this new CD crossed the threshold, the name Bjork was no more than that within these precincts. As it turns out, Bjork is a she, an Icelandic singer / songwriter whose given name is Bjork Gudmundsdottir. Apparently, saxophonist / arranger Travis Sullivan is an avowed enthusiast, as he has not only named his big band in Bjork's honor but has recorded at least two albums devoted to her music, which the twelve-piece ensemble has been playing since 2004. If nothing else, Sullivan and the Bjorkestra affirm on I Go Humble, recorded live at the Jazz Standard in New York ...read more
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 and drummer Jeff “Tain" Watts 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 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 ...read more
New Directions could signify a paradigm shift for alto saxophonist Travis Sullivan's eighteen-piece Björkestra, a unit dedicated to performing arrangements of Icelandic pop vocalist Björk. Sullivan goes back to his fundamental mainstream jazz roots on the lyrically rich New Directions, assembled with memorable comps and sterling interplay from his quartet. Sullivan's vocal-like tonalities and muscular alto work casts an acoustic game plan that often yields electrifying results. Sullivan generates memorable compositions while injecting a spirited aura into the program, making Tuneology" serve as a fitting analogy for his sensitized approach via a brisk, tight-knit bop groove, interspersed with ...read more
Travis Sullivan's New Directions, his Posi-Tone debut, is a rewarding trip through a mix of strong, self-penned, tunes and an unusual combination of covers. The saxophonist leads his quartet with style, emphasizing musicality and emotional engagement over displays of technique, and creating a sparkly collection that emphatically establishes his talents as a composer as well as a saxophonist. The altoist's compositions are firmly within the modern jazz tradition, but there's a variety in pace, rhythm and mood that keeps things interesting. The hard-bop Tuneology" and silky-smooth Georgie" are immediately engaging, with sprightly and positive melodies that enable ...read more
Travis Sullivan composes and arranges with a fine flair. For about the last six years, he's proven himself a strong leader of a large band, running the Bjorkestra, an acclaimed unit that plays slick, intricate and sometimes burning jazz versions of songs by popular Icelandic singer/songwriter Bjork.It's a band that's an audience pleaser and one that musicians like to play in. In Milan, Italy, in December, trumpeter Dave Douglas was the guest soloist. That's a really fun group," says Lauren Sevian, who has played baritone sax in the group (a chair she also holds in the Mingus Big ...read more
Saxophonist Travis Sullivan has received lots of coverage for the music he creates with his Björkestra, but the success of that band is a double-edged sword. While following the musical pathways set forth by his Icelandic muse has helped the saxophonist expand his audience, it also temporarily suppressed his own musical personality. With New Directions, Sullivan steps out of the shadow of Björk and back into the light of his own creations. For this ten-song program, Sullivan supplies eight originals that showcase his gleaming tone and melodic sensibilities, while also testifying to his varied musical interests. He ...read more
A fine collection of warm and cool originals by a strong up-and-coming altoist. Travis Sullivan is an original voice on the horn with some really sharp ideas. His compositions often approach the edges of early-Ornette freedom while remaining accessible and comfortable. Possible hints of Tristano come and go, although Sullivan is certainly more open-minded and tasteful than many of the pianist’s surviving disciples. On the whole, Sullivan should be considered of his own accord and any potential influences set aside.Guitarist Rez Abbasi pops up frequently on current jazz releases, and his flexible elegance is a fitting foil to ...read more
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