FAME Review: Travis Sullivan's Björkestra - I Go Humble
Travis Sullivan's Björkestra - I Go Humble

I Go Humble

Travis Sullivan's Björkestra

Zoho Music - ZM201312

Available from The Björkestra's online store.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

From the very first moment of I Go Humble, Travis Sullivan quite nicely captures Björk's famed quirkiness and distills it like a jangly jazz vermouth with neoclassical overtones and idiosyncratic abstraction, nonetheless fully loaded with bop, trad chart passages, swingin' sets of staves, and small big band vivacity. Sullivan has spoken to the richness of the famed Icelandic chanteuse's inspissations, transfusions, and sometimes impossibly complex reductionisms, finding in them a vast field for improv, which his compeers (he plays alto sax, arranges and conducts), a twelvesome, are only too happy to capitalize on. It's not, though, until the band winds down after the first cut (Hyperballad), that you realize the gig is live, recorded at the Jazz Standard in New York.

Becca Stevens treads the tightrope between Björk's very individualistic vocal wont and a nightclub songbird, retaining the frailties while boosting their underlying strengths. I suspect Björk's mind-blowing All is Love wasn't included in the repertoire because it's not exactly a jazzbo's realm, much more of an electronicist given to meditative quietude and hypercharged understatement. Still, it woulda been VERY interesting to have heard it tackled…and would have provided exceptionally intriguing contrast. Hunter creeps in that direction, diotically bloopy and bleepy with Holstian ostinati. Stevens is especially interpretationally strong here as well, just before the players all start unravelling and going abstract, trumpeter Kevin Bryan particularly mindful of Mark Charig in the early King Crimson, Ian Cook laptopping below him. Had Annette Peacok been born closer to this millenium, she'd be doing this sort of stuff.

The songs all spill over the 5, 6, 7, 8 and even 9-minute metrics, so there's a LOT of room for all kinds of perambulation. Unlike many tributes (and I love most all original tribs, not gatherums of LP cuts previously indited over years), Humble is not intended to re-present Björk by preserving overmuch fidelity to the compositions but rather parsing admiration of the inspirations they provide, the thinking they evoke, the creativity extrapolated out from them.

Track List:

  • Hyperballad (Björk)
  • Venus as a Boy (Björk)
  • Hunter (Björk)
  • I Go Humble (Björk / Bell)
  • Isobel (Björk / Hooper / Sigurdsson / van Wyk)
  • Army of Me (Björk / Massey)
  • Unravel (Björk / Sigsworth)
  • Joga (Björk / Sigurdsson)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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