The Bjorkestra with Dave Douglas in Milan, Italy, December 5, and Italy tour

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m up here in NH having a respite from NYC craziness and spending time with my family and New England friends.  Nothing says Thanksgiving like a good ol’ blog too, so I’d like to share with you a very exciting concert coming up that has been a year in the making. 

Aperitivo in Concerto has invited the full 18 piece Bjorkestra to perform at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan, Italy on December 5th.  Also, joining us for this concert as a special guest is world-renowned trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas.  It’s going to be quite an adventure, and the first time that I’ve been able to bring the entire band overseas. 

I’ve also written a new arrangement for the concert, Bjork’s “Unison” is a trumpet feature for Dave.  I’ve also resurrected/refurbished Sean Nowell’s arrangement of “Undo.”  So we’re going to have a Vespertine-heavy concert!

Also, the 7-piece Bjorkestra has 2 additional dates currently booked in Pescara and Naples on December 7 & 8, respectively.  More info about those shows very soon!!!

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New Bjorkestra show announced! November 18 @ The Iridium

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Save the date! Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra will be performing 2 sets at The Iridium in NYC on November 18th.  This performance will be featuring the 12 piece ensemble once again, and I’ve written a new arrangement for the band – “I Miss You” from Bjork’s amazing album, Post.  I’m still working out some of the details, but I’m very happy with the way this arrangement is turning out, and it’s going to be a lovely laptop/drum feature.

This performance is also going to be under the umbrella of the New York Foundation for the Arts Boot Camp Arts Festival, which evolved out of the NYFA Artists as Entrepreneurs Boot Camp seminar that I took this past summer.  I’ll be blogging more about this Festival in the weeks to come, which will begin in early November in venues all over the city, and will feature extraordinary artists from all types of media that will be showcasing their work.  I’ll keep you posted!

Week 3 at IAR: The Casual Sextet

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Since 2000 I’ve written a number of pieces that aren’t the usual “lead sheet” type of jazz tune.  I formed The Casual Sextet to perform these compositions.  We’ve been playing off and on for about 10 years, and it’s always been with different personnel and instrumentation.  I’m finally going in a more concrete direction with the group, and back in March I organized a show for The Casual Sextet at Fat Cat that included myself on alto saxophone, Natalie John on vocals, Brad Mason on trumpet, Yoshi Waki on bass, Mike Eckroth on piano, and Brian Fishler on drums.  It was the first gig in 3 years with this band, with an almost completely different lineup of musicians, and it felt good to revisit these somewhat unusual works in the Travis lexicon. By the way…my first arrangement of a Bjork song was “Army of Me’ for the Casual Sextet, and it served as a prototype for the Bjorkestra arrangement!

It was a no-brainer then to bring this band into the studio to record for the IAR series. Yoshi wasn’t able to do it, but my friend and amazing bass player Sam Minaie (who also recorded the quartet stuff a couple of weeks prior) came it and tore it up!

In keeping with tradition, here are a few of the rough mixes:

Like Hermeto: This is dedicated to Hermeto Pascoal, one of my musical idols.  The chromatic eighth note line is inspired my his music.

Dreaming in Teflon: One of the first songs I wrote for The Casual Sextet, features a 7/8 ostinato figure, a chromatic melody, a blowing section, and a gospelly vocal solo.

Tyranny in Paradise: This is another extended composition that has an intro for saxophone and voice duet, which gives way to a more sinister melody (the tyranny, maybe?), followed by a more hopeful tune.

enjoy!

The Bjorkestra “Live at the Jazz Standard” Kickstarter Project!

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I have an exciting announcement – a new Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra CD is in the works! In order to fund the completion  project, I’m asking friends, family, and fans (the 3 F’s, if you will) to donate whatever they can through this new and awesome website – Kickstarter.com.  Please read on!

In March of 2009, The Bjorkestra performed a two night engagement at the acclaimed New York City jazz club the Jazz Standard. Recording engineer Robert Olmsted came in to record both nights, resulting in over four hours worth fo recorded material. Rob and I have been working together closely over the past year to compile, edit, and mix this music for a full length live album. I’m excited to say that this part of the process is nearly complete, and I’m elated with the results. This recording captures the energy, intensity, and soul of twelve extraordinary jazz artists performing at their absolute best.

“Live at the Jazz Standard” will consist of nine tracks that include several brand new arrangements, as well as a few live versions of the arrangements from “Enjoy” – an excellent follow-up to the studio album where you can hear the band “throw it down” live. I’m self-releasing the CD with my own marketing and publicity campaign, and plan to obtain distribution in North America, Europe, and Japan.

Although this music has been recorded and mixed, there is still a long way to go before this project can be fully realized. The musicians need to paid their recording fees, the Jazz Standard needs to be paid so I can commercially release the CD, the CD itself needs to be mastered, packaged with artwork/liner notes, and duplicated, and a publicist needs to be hired (phew!).

Kickstarter.com is a great company that allows you to raise money for a project of your choice and it keeps everything very organized. For your generous donation you can get some really excellent rewards such as advance download and/or autograph copy of the CD, exclusive never-before-released content, autographed scores (by me), and even a live private performance with myself and Bjorkestra vocalist, Becca Stevens! Also with your contribution, you will receive my undying gratitude and the knowledge that you’re keeping new music alive!

You won’t be charged a cent (or receive the awesome rewards) unless the project goal of $4000 is raised by the deadline, so any contribution you can make will be greatly appreciated!

Please visit the Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra “Live at the Jazz Standard” CD Kickstarter site for more information and to donate today!

Thanks so much for your help and support!!!

The Bjorkestra 7tet next week, Blue Note or bust!

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I’m really excited about my show with the Bjorkestra 7-piece band at the Blue Note next week (Monday, March 1).  In addition to my regular cohorts Becca, Ian, and Yoshi, I also have some great special guests: Rachel Z on piano, Donny McCaslin on tenor saxophone, and Clarence Penn on drums. I’m honored to be playing and sharing in this music with these amazing artists. 

I’m also excited to present a new arrangement (they’re few and far between these days!) of a Bjork tune.  “Crying” from Debut.  I’m finding myself more and more gravitating towards Bjork’s earlier material (the last arrangement I wrote was “Come to Me).  I feel like I don’t have to do any sort of clever manipulation with the material – everything is already there: clear concise songwriting with beautiful melodies, counter-melodies, cool harmony, and excellent grooves.  I’ve tried to write some arrangements for Bjork’s post-Vespertine material, but have had only limited success with that.  For this arrangement, the changes I’m making are pretty minimal, it’s almost a straight cover in many respects, but I’m also curious to see how it is going to turn out refracted through the prism of everyone’s influences and abilities. 

So come on down and join in on the fun!!

Bjorkestra: The Lost Banff Tracks

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I attended the Banff Jazz Workshop for Improvised Music in spring 2008, and had the amazing opportunity to have my Bjorkestra arrangements performed and recorded by several of the students taking part in the workshop.  It’s been awhile, so I don’t exactly remember the names of everyone that took part in recording these tracks, but I do remember a few: Natalie John, vocals; Mark Nelson, drums; Chris van Voorst van Beest, bass; Dan Gassin, piano; Stan Killian, tenor sax (solo on “Pluto”).

The cool thing about these recordings is that none of these tunes have been recorded in the studio previously or since.  Everyone did an excellent job, pulling it together in just a couple of rehearsals, and everyone’s enthusiasm in making this music happen was absolutely special and beautiful!

Big Time Sensuality – This arrangement was inspired by Bjork’s live version on “Post Live” from her “Live Box” collection.  The intro and outro has a classic Ellingtonian vibe, and fully exploits the energy and impact of jazz big band with an intense slow shuffle feel. 

All is Full of Love – One of the few instrumental arrangements for The Bjorkestra, this arrangement is an alto saxophone feature that I wrote for myself to perform as the soloist with the band.  It has a Gershwin-esque introduction that gives way to a jazz ballad.  The saxophone solo section goes into double time for a medium swing feel, and there’s a nice (if I may say so myself) saxophone cadenza at the end. 

Pluto – This is one of my favorite arrangements for The Bjorkestra, because of the distinct contrast between it and the original version on Bjork’s “Homogenic.”  I had the idea from the first lyric of the song, “Excuse me, but I just have to explode” to contain the energy of the arrangement into a re-harmonized and sensuous bossa-nova that has a real inner tension and pathos.  The energy and tension slowly builds to the end, where the music “explodes” into a collective free improvisation.