There's a rocky history surrounding jazz-classical hybrids. But, in truth, that has little to do with any potential incompatibility. Instead, it's usually misguided maneuvering and/or an excessive show of dominant traits from one side or the other that mars said unions. When done right a wedding of those worlds can truly birth brilliance. Just listen to Urban(e)
Noted trombonist, composer, arranger and educator Mike Fahie
's unabashed love for classical music and jazz is clear and present in every aspect of this album. Drawing on an extensive knowledge of music history, a deep respect for the past and a unique vision of congruence anchored to the present moment, Fahie finds a way to chart his own course while channeling jazz language and classical substance with an unusually balanced and focused outlook.
Using his jazz orchestra as a medium for fine art, Fahie honors timeless classical works while reshaping them to his will. "Prélude, Op. 28 no. 20" his album-opening take on Frédéric Chopin's Chordal Preludeis given new life with a twist on tempo, a fresh melodic mien, arresting solo contributions from pianist Randy Ingram
and baritone saxophonist Carl Maraghi
, and a vamp for drummer Jeff Davis
to paint atop. Giacomo Puccini's "Nessun Dorma," dressed at first with fluttering adornments, retains its powerful emotional arcs thanks to sharp writing and the melodic integrity invested in tenor saxophonist Chet Doxas
' work. And perhaps most impressive of all, The Firebird
is reborn. Igor Stravinsky's ballet, in essence, becomes Fahie's program music. Using excerpts from that groundbreaking work, this leader pieces together a different story surrounding a dragon's journey. Ingram plays to the titular character's awakening, saxophonist Quinsin Nachoff
represents its hunger pangs, Fahie's euphonium and Jennifer Wharton
's tuba tie into the creature's emotional state with a slow and sorrowful pas de deux
, and flame and battle figure into an epic conclusion.
The four remaining tracks prove no less impressive in terms of scope, creativity and execution. Fahie's rendition of Claude Debussy's La fille aux cheveux de lin
retains the original's impressionistic beauty while also amplifying its core emotions. A powerful take on the third movement from Béla Bartók's String Quartet No. 1 embraces metal machinery, open air and tango while offering standout performances from guitarist Jeff Miles
, trombonist Daniel Linden
and trumpeter Brad Mason
. A gently dancing swing underscores the lighthearted 5/4 flow of Fahie's look at the second movement from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Pathétique Symphony, featuring alto saxophonist Aaron Irwin
and trombonist Nick Grinder
. And an album-ending trip through Johann Sebastian Bach's "Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not," showcasing Fahie and trumpeter David Smith
, points directly to the composition's reckoning with sighs, tears, anguish and need. Urban(e)
, guided by Mike Fahie's faith in stylistic sympathies, put together with painstaking care, produced by the meticulous Darcy James Argue
and given life by some of the great individualists and team players on the New York scene, most certainly beats the odds. It's as intelligent and well-considered a jazz-classical merger as one can really hope to encounter.
Prélude, Op. 28 no. 20; "Nessun Dorma" from Turandot; Excerpts from ;
La fille aux cheveux de lin from Préludes, Book 1; String Quartet No. 1, III. Allegro vivace; Symphony
No. 6, II. congrazia; "Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not" from Cantata, BWV 21.