Translation by my friends Lefteris Kordis and PanaYota Chaloulakou. This appeared in the Greek jazz magazine JAZZ & TZAZ. Download the review in Greek here JAZZ & TZAZ.
In our days, the most hopeful message is to discover powerful surprises coming from the debut of new artists who experiment and dare, forming a modern and personal language. As always, history has been written by the dynamic and enthusiastic start out of musicians. Surely, having an acquaintance with them and their work creates great excitement even more than the greatest work of an already recognized artist may create. The case of composer and orchestra director Nicholas Urie is a strong proof of the above. His exceptional work on the peculiar but captivating “Excerpts From An Online Dating Service” shouldn’t pass without attention.
Nicholas Urie is a man of great breadth of mind and of broad orientations that stimulate his imagination. With a deep sense of potentialities and functioning in a large ensemble, Urie reveals his seminal ideas. between jazz and contemporary music, tonal and atonal forms, in rhythms and melodies, in organized written parts and improvised explosions, he embodies his playful and fresh disposition and his humor, restructuring and refuting the convention. Jazz harmonies and dispersed melodic specks that originate from a diversity of styles, an avant-garde-ish flavor, a poetic mood, and an inclination for refutation and undermining, they all creatively entangle in his nine exquisite compositions of the album.
I found myself in a tussle over a review in Cadence Magazine by Alan Bargebuhr that got to be rather heated by the end. I find the lack of journalist standards in ‘review’ press to be appalling sometimes. I have found that writers generally (99% of the time) take themselves and their role in the discussion of art seriously and treat the process of vetting out new work with well thought out arguments for and against any given piece. Sometimes journalists (and I use the term loosely) use people’s work to inflate the worth of their own pseudo-intellectual writings. This is one such case. I usually don’t write to the press when I get a bad review but in this case I felt as though Mr. Bargebuhr should be taken to task for his astounding indifference to an accurate and objective portrayal of what is actually going on in the music outside of his esthetic preferences.
by Kurt Gottschalk
In 1965, Duke Ellington asked the question (by way of album title) “Will the big bands ever come back?” As the New Thing was beginning to take hold, it may have seemed a bit of bemoaning from a man whose time (it might again have seemed) had passed. As Ellington himself had proven already in his own career, however, (he could have asked the same question a decade earlier, before his watershed Newport appearance) big bands don’t go away, no matter how hard of times they suffer. They might not be financially viable very often, but they persevere, if only because writing charts for a stage full of players is how a composer with an ear for jazz can show chops. While popular tastes seem to prefer such signifiers as ‘orchestra’ or, in the case of the groups led by John Hollenbeck and Nicholas Urie, ‘large ensemble’, the big band still manages to survive.
Satoko Fujii, Barry Guy and William Parker all help to sustain its scale, but it’s inspiring to see less established artists approaching the bandstand and doing so with lineups rivaling the size of Ellington’s glory days.
Percussionist John Hollenbeck, originally a New Yorker but now based in Berlin, has demonstrated a strong ear for arrangement with his Quartet Lucy and Claudia Quintet and he premiered his Large Ensemble with the 2005 release A Blessing. The group’s second recording, Eternal Interlude, is a striking piece of work, a cinematic outpouring of delicacy and strength. It’s almost shocking to hear such untempered feelings laid bare across 20 instrumentalists. The six pieces presented here (totaling over an hour) manage to be intriguing, challenging even, but without any disruption or dissonance. Hollenbeck keeps tight control over the assemblage, making for the kind of music that works as both fore- and background – an impressive achievement given the sheer number of players involved.
Nicholas Urie uses his Large Ensemble to create an oratorio of online loneliness with his Excerpts From An Online Dating Service, an impressive debut from the Boston-based composer and conductor. As the title suggests, Urie’s source material is posts from internet dating sites, creating a work of voyeurism without titillation. Following a formalist overture, Urie sets the agenda on the upbeat “About Me”, with ChristinemCorrea intoning persistently “I want to meet you and have sex.” The bluntness is cold and unerotic, making for a portrait of detached, modern life. In this sense, Dating Serviceis reminiscent of the journalistic operas of John Adams, Virgil Thomson or even Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. Correa’s musical theater delivery might not be to all tastes, but it serves the material well; she is articulate and not overly emotive. Urie’s music, too, is clear and straightforward. Excerpts From An Online Dating Service is not just a remarkable first effort, it is a strong and imaginative depiction of a very real aspect of contemporary culture.
Jason Crane from The Jazz Session interviewed me the other day and here are the results. Jason is a great guy and has an amazing grasp of the music and you hear that in his thoughtful questions not just in this interview but in all of the episodes of The Jazz Session. Very thoughtful indeed.
Discussed here: Large Ensembles, suitable and hilarious names for my next record, the internet, Bob Brookmeyer, setting texts, getting started and living the dream.
R.J. DeLuke wrote this wonderful article for All About Jazz. The article explores the state of contemporary big band music by talking to the people writing it – a novel idea to say the least. He spoke with Dave Rivello, Jacam Manricks, J.C. Sanford, David Schumacher, Chris Jentsch and myself about what we do; who we are, and how we see the art progressing into the future.
You can check out the article at allaboutjazz.com or you can download a PDF of the article. Large Ensembles: Is There a Place in This Large Music World?
R.J. DeLuke is an indefatigable jazz fan and arbiter elegantiarum who aspires to ultimate hipness.
Making records with large ensembles; running financially insolvent ensembles; NULE’s “Excerpts From an Online Dating Service;” not caring about said financial insolvency; Bob Brookmeyer; headaches; tiny venues; small budgets; color; Maria Schneider; Big Bands with capitol B’s; Australia; the Sound Assembly; Dave Rivello; Jacam Manricks; Chris Jentsch
I was lucky enough to have a nice chat with Louie Free on his show “Brain Food From The Heartland” about my new record “Excerpts From an Online Dating Service” last week. Louie is a great guy and has a great show. you can hear him every week day streaming on Vindy.com.
Youthfully precocious composer/conductor Nicholas Urie was born in Los Angeles in 1985. He began winning jazz composition awards when he was 17 years old and studied composition with Bob Brookmeyer, then graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music with a master’s degree.
This résumé establishes Urie as a wunderkind and this designation manifests on his big band event Excerpts From an Online Dating Service (Red Piano, 2009). Excerpts is a suite composed around actual online dating site postings. Utterly adult in content, the “book” of Excerpts From an Online Dating Service is a provocative snapshot of electronic divining for love.
Urie uses the prewar Berlin Cabaret as the stylistic vehicle for carrying the ribald and carnal pheromonic texts. “Yes I have a picture you might like/In it I’m banging my ex-wife” informs from “About Me,” while “You’re like that first hit of crack/that first spike of smack” metaphorically signals a gang lament in “Wayne.”
Urie takes these most unpoetic poems and fashions them for the bold plasticity of Christine Correa’s voice. His 16-piece “Large Ensemble” (which includes Michael Christianson’s tuba) creates a ready Kurt Weill groove. Ute Lemper should have sounded so good. The presence of clarinetist Chris Speed is fully employed on the final two pieces, providing a sharp counterpoint to the bright brass Urie favors.
Excerpts From an Online Dating Service is very well conceived. Jazz (or any genre, for that matter) has never seen such adaptation. Writing music to surround such difficult text is a feather in Urie’s cap. Making it so immediately accessible and entertaining is a mark of the young composer’s genius.
Big band music has never veered so far from its swing roots as it does on this recording. Urie does not simply blow off the dust of the large jazz ensemble, he sandblasts it off with Uranium.
C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz
Kurt Weill for the internet age? In an astonishing debut, composer Nicholas Urie used texts from online dating ads as lyrics for big-band settings whose manner echoes the ribald, anti-bourgeois cabaret songs of 1920s Berlin. And in singer Christine Correa, who handles the lyrics’ loneliness, longing for love, and diverse shades of sexual interest, domination and masochism, he has his Lotte Lenya. The intent, he says, is celebratory, not satirical, but the act of celebration surely implies a comment on contrary attitudes to the material. The orchestrations, notably About Me, Cougar Seeks Prey, Bad Girl and Afternoon, are assured and imaginative, never overwhelming the subjects and consistent in tone for each one. The band responds with finesse and exuberance, with fine soloists in Frank Carlberg (piano), John Carlson (trumpet) and Chris Speed (clarinet).
Ray Comiskey, Irish Times