Young and gifted American composer/conductor Nicholas Urie had a brilliant idea. Basing his debut suite, Excerpts From An Online Dating Service, on real Internet personal ads collected from cities all over United States and Canada, Urie attempts to transform these coded messages into poetic statements about the current human condition. This is implied by poet and performer Allen Ginsberg's saying that "poetry is everywhere." Urie manages to turn these intimate statements into sympathetic, playful and cleverly orchestrated pieces, but does not succeed in adding a reflective layer to the deeper meaning of these vulnerable solitary exposures; how the encapsulation and merchandising of these personal life stories turns the most intimate wishes and desires into short slogans that benefit Internet corporations.
For these very sensitive, straightforward and rarely ironic pieces, Urie assembled an impressive large ensemble anchored by one of his mentors, pianist Frank Carlberg, Carlberg's partner Christine Correa, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Mike Calbrese. The reed and woodwind section feature saxophonists Bill McHenry and Jeremy Udden, trumpeter John Carlson and guest clarinetist Chris Speed. The broad yet nuanced musical language of Urie clearly references the journalistic musicals of Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht or the modern opera of Johnny Adams, and has a sophisticated elegance similar to Duke Ellington's great opuses. All of the pieces sound immediately accessible and entertaining, while still evocative and beautifully executed.
Correa elevates these singular correspondents into messengers of touching emotional statements, especially on the theatrical "About Me" and "Bad Girl." Her delivery begs the question: how do these real, anonymous expressions of loneliness and longing convey the disappearance of the distinction between being personal and open to the public? Uri's impressive debut presents unlikely material in surprising and often brilliant clothes. Maybe it is a difference of age, experience or simply attitude, but such personal statements may have benefited from greater risk-taking. It's easy to imagine how composer/arranger Kip Hanrahan might have transformed them into hot, lusty songs, or the ironic volume that a composer such as Carla Bley would have added.
Track Listing: Overture; About Me; Holidaze; Bad Girl; Interlude 1; Wayne; Interlude 2; Cougar Seeks Prey; Afternoon.
Personnel: Nicholas Urie: composer, conductor; Christine Correa: vocals; Jeremy Udden: soprano saxophone; Aaron Kruziki: soprano saxophone, flute; Bill McHenry: tenor saxophone; Kenny Pexton: Tenor Saxophone, clarinet; Brian Landrus: bass clarinet, baritone saxophone; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Jeff Clausen: trumpet; Dave Smith: Trumpet; John Carlson: trumpet; Lolly Bienenfield: trombone; Randy Pingrey: trombone; Matt Plummer: bass trombone; Michael Christianson: tuba; Frank Carlberg: piano; Joe Martin: bass; Michael Calabrese: drums; Chris Speed: clarinet (8, 9).