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Nicholas Urie made an impressive footprint with the release of his Excerpts From and Online Dating Service (Red Piano Records, 2009). The composer/arranger modus operandi changes little on My Garden, where he takes his texts from the poetry of West Coast writer Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), and weaves them into provocative and often violent tapestries of contemporary big band sounds.
Bukowski was a gutter poet laureate, who at the height of his popularity, labored in a Post Office job. He wrote in "dirty realism," the impolite language and cadence his Los Angeles home, straight from the streets and skids. Urie already proved himself creative in finding a "book" for his music and the composer's adoption of Bukowski is in perfect keeping with that.
Urie is a master of revealing sonic tactility, the feel of sound. He does this with equal ability, whether in the rhythm section, where he marches with the quiet militancy of a feather army ("For Crying Out Loud"), or in the chaotic frenzy of squeaking trumpets or sputtering low brass ("Finality"). "The Lioness" proceeds like a Wiemar Berlin opium dream, as does "Lean," a baritone saxophone solo gushing from the gaping wound of the arrangement. Urie structures his arrangements around the given atmosphere of a poem, atmospheres as depraved and venal as the online texts he used for Excerpts From and Online Dating Service.
This is not pretty music, nor is it particularly easy to listen to. But this makes it no less genius. This is music of high intelligence that expects as much as it provides, and what it provides is a listening experience like little else in our barren sonic desert.
Winter: My 44th Year; Round and Round; My Garden; For Crying Out Loud;
Lioness; Slaughterhouse; Lean; Finality.
Nicholas Urie: conductor; Christine Correa: voice; Frank Carlberg: piano,
Rhodes piano; John Hébert: bass; Michael Sarin: drums; Jeremy Udden:
soprano saxophone; Douglas Yates: alto saxophone, clarinet; Kenny
Pexton: tenor saxopghone; Brian Landrus: bass clarinet; Alan Ferber:
trombone; Max Seigel: bass trombone.