An orchestra in which all instruments are serving a journey into faraway places, between jazz, classic and impressionism, with beautiful arrangements. A sweet invitation for a peaceful escape from these dark times. Highly recommended !
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New York City-based trombonist Mike Fahie (Darcy James Argue, John McNeil, Pedro Giraudo) releases the debut album from his steadfast large ensemble, the Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra. Urban(e) presents a marriage of both the jazz and classical idioms. Fahie’s stunning arrangements of works by seven composers celebrate the cross-pollination of these two musics, fusing them into one cohesive sound.
The ensemble, which has been together since 2012, features eighteen of New York’s best creative musicians, including standout soloists Chet Doxas, Quinsin Nachoff, Jennifer Wharton, and David Smith, along with Fahie himself on trombone and euphonium.
Urban(e) represents over 200 years of musical invention, interpreted through a jazz lens including subtle undertones of blues, rock, and soul with interpretations of well-known works from the classical repertoire including Stravinsky’s “The Firebird”, a Bach Cantata, a prelude by Debussy, and perhaps the world’s most well-known opera aria, Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.”
Mike Fahie's liner notes:
It can be hard to start a new artistic project. Such a blank slate! So many questions! What’s the goal, the format, the story? Who is it for? What do I want to say? And the first step of answering them is usually “be yourself”. But what does that mean? Everyone contains multitudes! A good trick is to take one idea and let it grow.
Urban(e) grew out of the idea that I have always been a musician who loves both jazz and classical music, who takes the idea of playing both seriously. This was a chance to really develop that part of me as a player and as a writer. And it came out so wonderfully – these amazing musicians breathed so much life into the music, it transcended my dream!
Prelude op. 28 no. 20 by Frédéric Chopin
This beautiful 12-bar prelude was one of the first pieces I wanted to arrange; it’s known as the Chordal Prelude because it’s mostly simply quarter note chords. I knew that a piece based on chords would be ripe for jazz interpretation. I began by orchestrating the prelude itself, then doubled the tempo twice and wrote a whole new melody based on the chords. For a little flavor, I added a Brian Blade-inspired vamp at the end, and hid the melody inside of it.
“Nessun Dorma” from Turandot by Giacomo Puccini
I chose this, possibly the best-known aria ever written, for a memory shared with my friend Carl. We were on the road in a little hotel room in 2006 watching the opening ceremonies of the Torino Olympics. That was the night Luciano Pavarotti, still recovering from back surgery, and in what would be his final public performance, sung an absolutely breathtaking version of this gorgeous song. I’ll never forget the tears in both our eyes as we witnessed this miracle.
I decided to feature our own tenor, saxophonist Chet Doxas, on this arrangement which calls up night sounds to enhance the beautiful melody.
Excerpts from “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky
The Firebird is, of course, a ballet with its own story, but when I chose this one I decided to do something different and write my own narrative. The original Firebird is a protective spirit of the forest, but mine is more of a Dragon! The piece starts with a slow sunrise, with the Firebird, played here by Randy Ingram’s piano, waking up after a millennium and singing her plaintive song. She then calls up the chorus to join her and repeats her song, showing off all her pretty scales and flashing claws. But then, the hunger of a thousand years sets in and she goes to hunt. The melody changes modes, and is taken over by the hungry saxophone of Quinsin Nachoff. Her hunger sated, she settles her limbs and calls out in loneliness. Jennifer Wharton with her tuba joins me on the euphonium as we sing the otherworldly Firebird’s lament. But the mood passes when the sound of hooves and clinking armor are heard in the distance. Stravinsky’s epic Finale is recast as a glorious battle with gnashing teeth and plumes of fire as the tale ends with the wondrous creature flying off victoriously into the distant sunset.
La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin from Préludes, Book 1 by Claude Debussy
The Girl With the Flaxen Hair is a beautiful impressionist solo piano piece from the early 20th century, and has long been a personal favorite. It conjures up such a peaceful, intimate mood it almost begs you to listen again. With my arrangement, I’ve slowed and stretched out the moments, making our heroine perhaps a little more thoughtful, or even melancholy. And then for my solo, the mood brightens as the band picks up the tempo and I use a small motif of the melody to build to a peak. Then we return to the thoughtful mood and Debussy’s theme for a calm, almost meditative, ending.
3rd Movement, String Quartet #1 by Béla Bartók
When I started this project, it was important to me to incorporate some 20th century music, and the music of Bartók came to mind first. With his beautiful and quirky melodies, angular harmonies and definitive rhythmic language, there’s lots of material to work with. I listened to all 6 string quartets and when I settled on this one, the arrangement nearly wrote itself! The piece already sounded like it had elements of heavy metal and tango in it! This was fun to write and it’s always fun to play.
Allegro con grazia from Symphony #6 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
The Pathétique is my favorite of Tchaikovsky’s symphonies, and this second movement is a wonder. It’s written in 5/4, but the melody is deceptively shaped and often feels like a simple, song-like waltz. I love the combination of sophisticated aural trickery with plain melodic beauty. This arrangement is perhaps the most faithful to the original – I’ve added a light swing and some space for lovely improvisations from Aaron Irwin and Nick Grinder, but mostly kept the beautiful melodies and counterpoint from the original.
Seufer, Tränen, Kummer, Not from Cantata BMV 21 by Johann Sebastian Bach
I was introduced to this piece on the great album Baroque Duet by Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis, so I have some huge shoes to fill as I perform it! Bach’s music is very hard to adapt, because the harmonies are created by the interplay of melodic lines, and it’s difficult to change anything without losing the essence of the piece. This aria, whose name translates to “Sighs, Tears, Anguish, Trouble” is a song of pain and suffering. Bach brings this to a heartbreaking point, but of course he leaves some room for redemption. In my arrangement, after David Smith and I improvise on Bach’s counterpoint melodies, we use modern harmonies and the full range of the jazz orchestra to stretch the emotion from heartbreak to denial, rage, and a spiral to madness! But we return to Bach’s beautiful writing to wrap up with a calming acceptance.
released August 28, 2020
Aaron Irwin, Anton Denner, Chet Doxas, Quinsin Nachoff, Carl Maraghi
Brian Pareschi, David Smith, Sam Hoyt, Brad Mason
Matthew McDonald, Nick Grinder, Daniel Linden, Jennifer Wharton
Arrangements, Orchestrations, Trombone, Euphonium
Produced by Darcy James Argue
Recorded at Oktaven Audio
Engineered by Brian Montgomery
Mastered by Michael Perez-Cisneros
Executive Producer - Dave Douglas
Associate Producer - Rob Fahie
Production Assistant - Matthew Morden
Photography - Lukas Frei (Cover), Linera Yulamanova (portraits), Rob Fahie (group)
Design - Lukas Frei
All compositions public domain except Nessun Dorma by Giacomo Puccini
(Universal Music-Careers OBO G. Ricordi & Co. & S.I.A.E. Direzione Generale)
Mike Fahie is a jazz trombonist, composer, and educator living in Brooklyn. His current projects include a collaboration
with legendary trumpeter, John McNeil , the Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra, and the Mike Fahie Quintet. He's also an in-demand sideman in New York City, playing with Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, the Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra, and the Gramercy Brass Orchestra of New York....more
This is a wonderful album! Dave Douglas is one of my heroes. He's more than a great musician. He has a vision for the music and a feeling for putting together a group which is unique. So, beside Joey Baron (another heavyweight and one of my absolute favourite drummers) he invited some young cats to this session. They play just great and make sure that this music sounds totally fresh, whilst at the same time being deeply rooted in the jazz tradition. Florian Arbenz
If you are interested in a modern large ensemble jazz music, this CD is a must-have. "José Martí en Nueva York" masterfully blends two great musical traditions: jazz and Cuban music. Sophisticated compositions, surprising arrangements and master solos. In two words - excellent project! Karolis B.