Enjoy! – Bjorkestra
Last night, the one and only Herbie Hancock took home the coveted album of the year Grammy for his River: The Joni Letters, an album of Joni Mitchell tunes. This is huge for several reasons. First up, a jazz artist has only won album of the year one other time: Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto in 1964, with their immortal Getz/Gilberto. Second, while artists like Brad Mehldau, Hancock himself and countless others in the jazz field have tackled songs from the rock world for years, last nights win may have validated the inherent connection between rock and jazz for the mainstream audience. Its like when Coltrane went free: If ‘Trane was doing it, were cats like Cecil and Ornette really so crazy?
Also, this means that its a good time to be the Bjorkestra, another jazz entity performing the works of a popular artist. Headed up by alto saxophonist and primary arranger Travis Sullivan, this 18-piece jazz group has been interpreting the music of Bjork Gudmundsottir (you know her as plain old Bjork) since their 2004 debut at New Yorks Knitting Factory and now, at long last, they have a record for me to check out (to my chagrin, Ive managed to miss all of their New York performances).
And check it I did. Several times, in fact. I love this record: as a big fan of Bjork, and a lover of all things jazz, these guys are really doing it for me. While the convincing vocalist Becca Stevens plays the part of Bjork, disparate horn lines swirl overhead, and intersect, and envelop the listener (on Enjoy!, we have six saxophonists, four trombonists and four trumpeters). And the rhythm section really cooks below it all, especially pianist Art Hirahara and drummer Joe Abbatantuono. Key tracks include the stunning opener, Hyberballad (with a great tenor sax solo from Sean Nowell), the guitar-filled Army of Me (guitar courtesy of Ben Monder), and the title track, arranged by bass trombonist Kevin Schmidt. Check this one out, even if you dont know anything about Bjork. You might find yourself heading to the nearest record store to pick up one of her records (just kidding, there are no more record stores!).