Although it’s right there in the name, it’s not entirely clear whether composer/leader Kyle Saulnier’s Awakening Orchestra is in fact an orchestra, a big band or something entirely and wildly different. Encompassing broad swaths of musical style in both original and recontextualized and re-imagined compositions, the Awakening Orchestra delves deep into traditions from classical to jazz to indie rock on their debut album, volume I: this is not the answer.
Interspersing original work - like the intricate, four-part, title-track symphony - with often radical interpretations of work by Samuel Barber, Radiohead, Johannes Brahms and Low, volume I: this is not the answer crafts a powerful mix of written and improvised material. Throughout, individual expressions of virtuosity blend seamlessly with Kyle Saulnier’s ever-shifting orchestral textures, and the Awakening Orchestra’s eight years of performing experience come through in the nuanced yet strongly-defined ensemble concept that threads through the record.
“In effect, this is a Great American Songbook of another order... the ensemble captures an epic, sweeping sound in a quest to reach a higher realm.”
— Herb Boyd
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
“[A]s rare an achievement as Carla Bley's historic Escalator Over The Hill (ECM,
1971). The latter work—more jazz-operetta in orientation and prescribed in its
thematic flow—nevertheless shares many similar elements and the Awakening
Orchestra has created no less of a monumental event. … The title track is a four-
part suite and nothing short of a masterpiece. Saulnier's challenging score
embraces the diverse families of instruments that make up the Awakening
Orchestra. Each of the four movements has a unique personality, drama and subtle
beauty that that approaches an altered musical realm without overreaching. …
[The] versatility within This Is Not the Answer is exceptional and while the
individual pieces can sound episodic at first listen they later gel in a holistic way. …
This Is Not the Answer is tour-de-force and one of the best albums of the year.”