Nicholas Urie

Excerpts from an Online Dating Service

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How many jazz records do you know of that should come with a parental warning sticker? For his debut release, 23-year-old composer Nicholas Urie has assembled a big and talented ensemble to perform his settings of texts lifted from casual online dating services. These lyrics -- and some definitely have rhyme, rhythm, and literary invention -- range from desperate to creepy, obvious to double entendre, and cover a couple of surprising fetishes ("Does anybody want/To pretend that they're/A robot?" -- "Interlude #2"). Beyond the unusual topic and crude lyrics -- approached straightforwardly and non-judgmentally, as mere artifacts of a facet of modern society -- stands Urie's songwriting. And that's where the real surprise lies: this youngster has a cunning sense for warped brass band music. Pieces like "Wayne" "Cougar Seeks Prey," and "Bad Girl" pull from all the strengths of the 17-piece band (18 with the inclusion of special guest Chris Speed on the last two tracks), throwing in the kitchen sink, for a wild ride through fast-paced heads, cluttered yet thrilling arrangements, and moments of yearning beauty. Christine Correa could probably make any graffiti sound like a love letter; her voice plays a key role in imparting credibility to the whole artistic approach behind this album. The seasoned rhythm section of Frank Carlberg (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Michael Calabrese (drums) play a similar role on the instrumental front. Between the two are 13 horn players, Bill McHenry, and John Carlson getting the higher-profile solos. For a debut, Excerpts from an Online Dating Service is pretty amazing. The only weak points are found early into the album: "About Me" is a bit too circus-like to serve its purpose, and the "Overture," an instrumental collage of themes from the album's pieces, is downright tacky. However, the rest of this is gold.

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