"I will discover the keys to his ignition."
Arranged by Nicholas Urie
"I will discover the keys to his ignition."
Arranged by Nicholas Urie
He’s simple as a swim in summer. Not arty. Not actory… He’s satisfactory”
Composed by Kurt Weill
Arranged by Nicholas Urie
Performed by Kristen Watson, Soprano with A Far Cry chamber orchestra.
The quiet settles down again, the house and I are all alone.
Composed by Kurt Weill
Arranged by Nicholas Urie
Performed by Zachary Wilder and A Far Cry in Jordan Hall
Our “2 Guys and a Gal” concert in David Friend went splendidly. Ayn’s band was able to do some amazing things with very little rehearsal. I haven’t done much in Boston since I moved back (from my beloved Brooklyn) for my teaching position at Berklee; reuniting with many of the people I played with all the time while I was at New England Conservatory was a treat.
As always Ayn and Jeff’s music was amazing to hear. Jeff’s music has a manic quality that I LOVE. He keeps you right on the edge of your seat the whole time. Ayn’s music is wonderfully detailed and surprising in it’s linear construction and rhythmic language. I often say to myself when I’m listening to Ayn’s music, “how does she hear this?” Her music has the feeling of being entirely what it is, if you know what I mean. No superfluous this and that. Just the music. It sounds so natural. Basically, I couldn’t have been happier to do a show with them.
We performed two of my arrangements: “Southern Pacific,” which is a great Scofield second-line(ish) tune in 6-4 that I arranged for a concert with Sco and Denmark’s Klüvers Big Band. The other arrangement of mine was a deconstruction/savage remaking of Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser.” Monk’s music has always been a central pillar in my universe and I have been working on a project for the past year, I guess for lack of a better term, going deep into the man’s music. The arrangement is a sort of reflection on the mood of the title and by the end we find ourselves clutching to the bar trying to find our way home.
I’ll post recordings as soon as they materialize.
Ayn Inserto’s band will be playing a couple of my charts on September 12th (a Monk and a Scofield). The concert will also feature Ayn’s music and pieces by Jeff Claassen. The concert will be one set and is FREE. Come down and cheek it out. It should be a great show.
"2 Guys and a Gal" With the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra:
co-led with Jeff Claassen and Nicholas Urie
Berklee College of Music
David Friend Recital Hall
921 Boylston Street
"…Capping off the concert were five songs by Kurt Weill, ingeniously arranged by jazz composer Nicholas Urie. Even here there were surprises — the opening of “Lonely House” could almost have been part of the Webern. For the most part, though, the songs adroitly walked the delicate line between art and entertainment. So did the performances by Wilder, Watson, and the Criers, all of whom wore their skills with a kind of casual virtuosity."
The internet’s best jazz and improvised music resource is back! Jason Crane is resuming his duties as the chronicler of improvised music. Jason is an insightful interviewer and an incredibly sensitive listener.
1. Your musical work ranges from classical to jazz. But the first listening to your music brings to mind also the European (post) avant-garde. What aspects of European music of the 1900s influenced more your music? Vice versa, which influence on your work comes from the American tradition?
Many of my deepest musical influences are 20th century European composers. As I’ve developed, my interests have shifted between various styles and aesthetic viewpoints but my interest in something that might be called modernism has been pretty consistent. Early in my writing life I was drawn the sensuality of Debussy and Ravel.
Both composers continue to be wellsprings for the way I deal with harmony. The way they allow harmony to melt from one sonority to another is something I try to capture in my own compositions, as well as the arrangements I write. I love the fluidity of their languages. As I’ve developed my linear voice, the music of Stravinsky (the neoclassical works especially) and Weill have been huge influences on me. These two composers have had a consistent and powerful hold over my artistic imagination. I draw from both of them on a daily basis. Texturally I am drawn to Dutilleux, Webern, Lutoslawski, among others. Their use of sonorities as kinds of structural pillars is something that has fascinated me for a long time. All this being said, it all goes back to Bach for me, which I know is a little cliché. I have also had a love affair for a long time now with renaissance sacred music.
My American influences are mostly jazz-related. An exception is Ives, who was big for me when I was in school. But I enjoy all of the standard major jazz artists like Miles and Coltrane, Mingus and Shorter. The people who have left a mark on my writing are Steve Lacy, Frank Carlberg, Bob Brookmeyer, Vince Mendoza, Gil Evans, and Monk. I could go on and on, but I think this is a good smattering. For me the connection between Bach, Webern, and Monk feels obvious and essential.
My interests and career have me working in all kinds of different styles of music,classical, jazz, pop, what have you; but I consider myself a jazz musician with contemporary western art music sensibilities. Improvisation is hugely important to me. If I write too much music without an improviser I get a little itchy and have to write a big band chart. I love the conversation that begins when someone starts improvising over a structure I’ve created. I think it is thrilling, to say the least.
Things seem to be going well in Chicago as evidenced by this lovely write-up by Neil Tesser from the Chicago Jazz Music Examiner, “A U.S. premiere: Kurt Elling in Chicago, with a little Danish on the side.” Neil says in the piece, ”These days, Klüvers Big Band features a number of arrangements by Nicholas Urie, an American-born wünderkind arranger, who at the age of 26 has released two ambitious and uncompromising albums of original compositions while penning arrangements for a slew of other artists.” If you’d like to see the show in NYC, belowis the info from the New York Times.
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 : 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
My friend died today. My mentor. Someone who has meant so much to me as a musician, a man, is no longer with us in body. I don’t know what exactly to say about the death of someone that I’ve been so intimately entangled with for so long. He was a partner in the truest sense of the word, someone who for my entire adult life has been present and willing to traverse the rocky terrane of my personal development. He showed me love. He showed me compassion. He invited me into his life with a kind of openness that I have rarely experienced. Bob shepherded me through breakups, recordings, rehearsals, triumphs, sorrows, death, my education as a composer and a human – the list really goes on and on.
I started studying with Bob at the tender age of eighteen. I went to Boston because Bob was there. I studied with him for four years, until he left New England Conservatory for heath reasons the summer before my first year in graduate school. I think he still owes me a couple of lessons, actually. The photo up top was following my second Jazz Composer’s Orchestra concert at New England Conservatory. I wrote a floaty piece that was very derivative of Maria Schneider, though at the time I don’t think I could have acknowledged that. My first lesson after the show he told me he was proud of me but it was time I graduated from “pretty,” and started writing lines. I’ve never stopped.
Bob insisted I be an individual. He insisted this of all his students and could be quite obstinate about it. He knew that I was never going to be Maria Schneider (who he loved!), no matter how much I tried. And I really, really tried. He knew a lot about me as a person, and spent an amazing amount of time with me investigating who I was and what my sensibilities were, be they political, musical, etc. He knew I was kidding myself writing what he lovingly referred to as ”vanilla-fudge.”
Through his prodding and guidance I came to realize that I had been writing in a style that was easily liked and externally validated; it was pretty, light, meandering, and sensuous in its own way, but it wasn’t me. He gave me the confidence to eschew “an easy get,” as he used to say from the audience and search for something more intrinsically myself. He taught this by example, as his own music’s arc demonstrates. Bob introduced me to Kurt Weill, who I have been imbibing passionately ever sense, a decade long love affair and still going strong. He held meet and greets in his Jordan Hall studio with Bartok, Ligiti, Earl Brown (who had been a mentor of Bob’s), and countless other composers who he knew I would gravitate towards. I did. All of them, actually, to my surprise in many cases.
To that end, Bob also – this time literally – introduced me to my other great mentor, teacher, life-model, Vince Mendoza, who I contacted at Bob’s behest. Once my association with Vince began, Bob always asked after him when we spoke. I’m not sure if they were close but their mutual respect for the other’s craft was apparent in every word the two spoke of one another. I think the word Vince used to describe his feelings towards Bob was genuflection, a new and strange and entirely exotic word for a non-Catholic to hear and understand fully, but one that I now see as a bit of eunoia. Bob was a kind of priestly figure in our art. The introduction to Vince’s sound world was game changing for me. Bob knew I would love Vince’s music. I did. I do.
Bob took the time to know me. Not what I wore as a mask, but the marrow. Through all of this he provoked me into being original. He fought me and I him, but in the end I was able to see into myself in a way that had previously eluded me. He showed me who I was. He lifted the veil. Every time I sit down to write, I compose more earnest music than would be possible had he not taken the time to know my core, and champion my own intrinsic value. What I learned from Bob was less about music and more about honesty and the cultivation of an accurate sense of self. He had both of those things in spades. He was deeply honest.
When I got the news I was writing an arrangement for a concert coming up in January. A few minutes before I heard of his passing, I finished a section of the tune where I had written some very prickly counterpoint and had remarked to myself that “Bob would approve.” It is strange to think that now that “would,” which occasionally floats into my mind while I’m writing will now be a would’ve. The idea of shifting from present to past-tense is jarring and scary. It is just so sad, loosing him, and I can’t help but think he will remain very much in the present-tense in my mind moving forward. How could he not?
I want to share the letter I sent him on his eightieth birthday, which I think has a clarity that I am currently unable to muster in my current state. His reply was so Bob. I got an email back that said, “I did all that? Feeling very warm. A very happy birthday indeed! Love, BB.”
On your eightieth birthday I can’t seem to find the appropriate words to express the ineffable impact you have had on my life. I can’t imagine what being on this planet for eighty years feels like, but I would imagine that, as the years progress one might begin to look at their time on this world in a more reflective way than in one’s youth. And to that end, on this day in your life, I would like to share a few thoughts about my experience with you, and really, of you that has helped shape my world in a positive way.
In no particular order I think you should know that you: taught me to own it; cared for me; guided me; challenged me; let me challenge you; hugged me; showed me what it means to be engaged; shot the shit with me; told me I was wrong; told me I was right; gave me your time; broke bread with me; shared your life’s history; made me feel welcome in your life; let me just be; accepted my faults; developed my core; lead me through rough spots; acknowledged the smooth ones; let me feel satisfied with myself; asked me why; made me do it over and over and over again; reminded me why I do what I do; encouraged me; and most importantly you gave me something of yourself that has made it’s home in my art.
I can’t thank you enough for these things and while this letter fails to communicate my appreciation of this short and less than complete list, I hope you take from it that you have given me something special by giving me something of yourself these last seven years. So, happy birthday. Enjoy the cake and be well.
First thoughts of accompanying the poetry of Charles Bukowski to music are predisposed to the techniques of Tom Waits and his post-beatnik circus. Composer/arranger Nicholas Urie takes another path, instead, orchestrating his 12-piece big band towards an alternative rendition and deeper understanding.
Like his previous Excerpts From An Online Dating Service (Red Piano, 2009) ,where he put personal ads to music, Urie employs vocalist Christine Correa to sometimes sing, and sometimes speak the poet laureate of American lowlife’s words. Correa’s repetition of “you have my soul and I have your money” on “Round And Round” creates a redundancy of melody that is picked up by electric pianist Frank Carlberg, further swung by the dexterous big band. Urie’s arrangements limit the voluminous nature of the band, dispensing the tracks with steadiness and confidence. Even when he turns the band free on the “Lioness,” with Correa’s shouts, the mayhem is unshakable and somehow anchored.
Urie has organized his recording to rely not only the texts but the orchestration for meaning. The soloists are given their individual moments to shine. Backed by a solid rhythm section of Carlberg, drummer Michael Sarin and bassist John Hébert, saxophonist Kenny Pexton and trumpeter John Carlson deliver soaring passages on “Finality,” while Carlson’s sparse, muted trumpet leads the march on “For Crying out Loud.”
If Urie can dress Bukowski up in a suit and tie, then more power to him.”