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Travis Sullivan’s Björkestra : I Go Humble

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The Icelandic vocalist Björk makes otherworldly pop music. It’s unusual and emotional and it takes risks. So it makes little sense to arrange those sounds for big band. The big band, by necessity, is one of the safest endeavors in jazz. With so many players involved, the arrangements generally need to be set and structured. There is little room for error or abandon. So by bringing them down to earth, saxophonist Travis Sullivan’s decade-old, 13-piece Björkestra strips Björk’s songs of what makes them special. On the band’s live second album, I Go Humble, for instance, the string-bolstered, minimal electronica of “Venus as a Boy” is translated to elegant swing. That hardly seems like an upgrade. In music, one should seek to put the edge on, not take it off.

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