Works by Anthony Braxton, Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz, Lenny Pickett, Bobby Previte, and Elliot Sharp
Robin Holcomb, piano; Marty Ehrlich, tenor, alto & soprano sax, clarinet; Wayne Horvitz, keyboards; Doug Wieselman, tenor sax, clarinet; Cleave E. Guyton, Jr., alto sax, flute; Robert DeBellis, alto & soprano sax; Sam Furnace, baritone sax; Ray Anderson, tuba, trombone; Art Baron, trombone; Vincent Chancey, French horn; Eddie Allen, trumpet; Steven Bernstein, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jack Walrath, trumpet; Lindsey Horner, bass; Butch Morris, cornet; Bobby Previte, drums, marimba
If a name could tell us everything about its subject, the New York Composers Orchestra would be self-explanatory: an ensemble of New York City musicians who have organized to play orchestral renditions of their own compositions. Of course, nothing's ever that simple. For one thing, since they initiated the project in 1986, the NYCO's co-directors—keyboardists Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb—split their time between New York and Seattle. Secondly, although the 1990 debut recording by the NYCO concentrated on original works by band members (Marty Ehrlich, Doug Wieselman, Holcomb and Horvitz), this new recording reflects the NYCO's extended reach with pieces by Lenny Pickett, Elliott Sharp, and Anthony Braxton, as well as band member Bobby Previte.
"I organized the Orchestra as an antidote to the other things I was doing," Horvitz explains, by which he means the more "avant-garde" projects of the teeming "Downtown"/Kitchen/Knitting Factory circle of musicians and bands that includes John Zorn, Tim Berne, Bill Frisell, Horvitz's own group The President, and many others. "I wanted to see what I could do with something more conservative," he says.
Again, "conservative" is too narrow a characterization for this adventuresome 15-member big band and its daring repertoire. In the context of the improvised and new-music realms where many of the players are often heard, a tightly arranged and conducted orchestral setting might imply a retreat to values of an earlier era. But any aggregation that brings the music of Elliott Sharp and Anthony Braxton to the listening public is hardly on a reactionary course.
The New York Composer's Orchestra: First Program in Standard Time