Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra
Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra is an eighteen piece, genre-bending orchestra that successfully fuses the eclectic accessibility of Björk's broad ranging pop music with innovative stylistic and improvisatory concepts drawn from modern jazz and beyond.
Arranged and conducted by alto saxophonist, arranger and band leader Travis Sullivan, The Bjorkestra performs a repertoire of the music of visionary artist Björk, spanning her entire catalogue as a solo artist, truly creating a new, dynamic and accessibly fresh approach to the big band sound that is uniquely 21st Century.
"Maybe her music chose me" is what Travis Sullivan when asked "why Björk?" by the Boston Globe, adding "I started listening to her music around the time that I was first getting into arranging for big bands, and Björk's music is really the perfect vehicle for that because it's in the cracks between a lot of different genres. It's melodic and rich and deals with a lot of modality." But Sullivan is quick to add that his arrangements though for a big band are firmly "not the kind of big band music that Glenn Miller played." This music made for our time - music that is coming from many different directions, yet like Björk's own music, keeping a strong balance between the accessible and innovative.
"There's a density to Björk's music, but there's also an openness to it," he says. ''There's that open Icelandic vibe you get with her music. I wanted to see how I could write that into my arrangements using musical colors that are much more opaque. I was thinking about it in terms of painting with layers as I was trying to make these very long brush stokes with the music."
No surprise then that Travis Sullivan's Bjorkestra features some of the best musicians in the NYC downtown jazz and indie music scene, including almost an equal ratio of female to male players. The Bjorkestra's personnel have performed and/or recorded with the likes of The Arcade Fire, Dr. Dre, Charlie Hunter, The Saturday Night Live Band, The Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra and many others.
Perhaps most important of all, after Travis himself, is the person adding vocals to this unique ensemble - standout Becca Stevens, whose voice is evocative of Björk yet has a personal quality all of it's own, along with Travis she is the spokeswoman for the group. Like Björk, Becca Stevens has been performing for a very long time - she was born into a musical family in North Carolina and has been on stage since the age of two! As well as performing with Bjorkestra and numerous jazz/rock bands she teaches guitar and a music readiness program for very young children.
Sullivan admitted to PRI's The World radio show that "there does seem to be certain factions within the jazz community that have totally ignored this project just because it doesn't fit into that sort of definition of preserving the tradition of the past. You know, we're covering a pop artist, so, oh no." But guest musicians like Grammy nominated tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin, Verve recording artist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and guitar icon Ben Monder have all been keen to come in sit in with the band and audiences at venues like The Knitting Factory, Joe's Pub, St Marks Church, Maxwells, Makor, JVC Jazz Festival, Thalia Theater, BAM, Bowery Ballroom, Symphony Space and the Highline Ballroom (and that's just NYC), as well as writers at publications like The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Boston Globe, Jazz Times, New York Post, Philadelphia City Paper and others have all raved about the band.