absolute ensemble

The New York based Absolute Ensemble, conductor Kristjan Järvi, is and 18-piece electro-acoustic ensemble that fuses classical, jazz, rock and funk.  Charles Mingus, Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix have found a place on the bill with Bach, Stravinsky and Schoenberg and the works of new composers whom the band is often the first to promote.  They have also performed works by the Beatles, Frank Zappa, John Adams and Michael Daugherty.  


The Absolute Ensemble's Zappa repertoire includes:

This arrangement of 'Uncle Remus' was performed as a world premiere. (Absolute Ensemble commission)

The "Absolute Zappa" program for the September 2004 concerts, featuring Mike Keneally and Napoleon Murphy Brock, looked like:


  the absolute ensemble: adams / schoenberg
    (1999, cd, ger, ccn'c records 00492)
  the absolute ensemble: absolute mix
    (2000, cd, ger, ccn'c records 00702)
  the absolute ensemble: absolution
    (2001, cd, ger, enja)
  the absolute ensemble: fix
    (200?, cd, ger, enja)
  the absolute ensemble: architectonics
    (2001, cd, ger, enja)
  the absolute ensemble: habanera
    (2001, cd, ger, enja)
  the absolute ensemble: african symphony
    (200?, cd, ger, enja)
  the absolute ensemble: light
    (2001, cd, ger, enja)
  the absolute ensemble: viñoa - arcanum
    (200?, cd, ger, enja)
  absolute ensemble feat. joe zawinul: absolute zawinul
    (2009, cd, ger, intuition records int 3456 2)

absolute_zawinul.jpg (51151 bytes)




Kristjan Järvi's Absolute Ensemble


Napoleon Murphy Brock: Sax, flute, Vocals & dance
Mike Keneally: Guitar, vocals
Kristjan Järvi: Conduct, samples & second voice on rap

Hayley Melitta Reid: Flute & Piccolo
Keve Wilson: Oboe
Michiyo Suzuki: Klarinet & Sax
Marianne Gythfeld: Klarinet
Martin Kuuskmann: Piccolo-Basson
Damien Primis: Contra-Basson
Ann Ellsworth: Horn
Charles Porter: Trumpet
Mike Seltzer: Trombone
Adam Ben-David: Piano, Keyboards & Samples
Damien Bassman: Drum & Percussion
Pablo Rieppi: Percussion
Gene Pritsker: Guitar & first rap vocal
Vesselin Gellev: Violine 
Shalini Vijayan: Violine
Edmundo Ramirez: Viola
Ann Kim: Violoncello
Mat Fieldes: Bass & Contrabass


random notes

(october 2003)

America's complete, 20-piece Absolute Ensemble will appear in Australia for the first time, under creator-conductor Kristjan Jarvi, playing "new, heart-pumping arrangements of rock legend Frank Zappa's music - a guaranteed sell-out".

Info: Hoodude

(february 2004)

Absolute Ensemble and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra perform Absolute Zappa at Adelaide Town Hall, 9pm, on March 8, and Blood on the Floor at Adelaide Town Hall, 8pm, on March 9.
conductor Kristjan Jarvi

From:Adrian Clark
Absolute Zappa - Barbican Hall, London, April 1st

First, the setlist...

Filthy Habits, Dog/Meat, Don't You Ever Wash That Thing?, Lucille, Why Does it Hurt When I Pee?, Catholic Girls, Cosmik Debris, Uncle Remus, G-Spot Tornado, Amnerika, Planet of the Baritone Women, Teenage Prostitute, Revised Music for Low Budget Orchestra, Theme from Lumpy Gravy, RDNZL, Duke of Prunes, T'Mershi Duween, Packard Goose, Outside Now, Muffin Man... (encores) Peaches en Regalia, Dirty Love, Theme from Lumpy Gravy.

All pieces featured Kristjan Järvi conducting the (20-piece) ensemble, and guests Keneally, Brock, Django Bates and the 3 X-ecutioners joined in here and there.

Criticisms... the sound. Can't be difficult to mix a huge electro-acoustic thing, but I saw David Axelrod (with similar ensemble) at the Royal Festival Hall recently, and the sound had an immediacy and clarity which was severely lacking at the Barbican last night.

The hall acoustics may also have made a few arrangements a little unconvincing. On a couple, elements such as the sampled drum loops continued throughout, robbing dynamic variation from the originals. On a couple of others, only the main riffs were used as a basis for shifting (improvised?) textures over the top. Sometimes this worked, other times it didn't, or was scuppered by the echoey hall sound.

On the plus side, though, most of the arrangements worked well, in most cases sounding like a smaller (and electrified) version of the Ensemble Modern versions. There are some particularly fine musishnins in the Absolute Ensemble, particularly the first violinist (Vesselin Gellev, according to the programme notes) who seemed equally adept with
jazz/blues improvisation and difficult written lines. The percussionist (Pablo Rieppi) was also damn good, but I'd like to have seen him get more parts. Maybe that was the problem with some of the 'textural' arrangements... there weren't enough spiky sounds to make it sound like real Zappa. All in all, though, it was a fine night out, and any ensemble which can play over 2 hours of Zappa music without an intermission deserves respect. 

The secret word of the night, judging by the drunken bugger a few rows behind me, who kept (inexplicably) yelling it out, was probably "Dogs".

-- Adrian

18|09 Samstag 20.00Uhr
Mike Keneally git, synth, voc
Napoleon Murphy Brock sax, voc
Absolute Ensemble
Kristjan Järvi Dirigent

Absolute Zappa: Frank Zappa erschütterte die Musikwelt, stürzte sich respektlos und virtuos auf Rock`n Roll, Jazz und Klassik und erlangte als Musiker wie als Person Weltruhm. In diesem Geiste stürzen sich Kristjan Järvi und das Absolute Ensemble respektlos und virtuos auf Zappa und die Musik, die ihn beeinflusste. Das Ergebnis ist aufregend: Absolute Zappa- total Järvi!KölnMusik
Ende ca. 21.45 Uhr
Keine Pause
Die Reihe Akzente der Spielzeit 2004/2005 wird gefördert vom Kuratorium KölnMusik e.V.
19.00 Uhr: Einführung in das Konzert durch Stefan Fricke
Kölner Philharmonie
Vorverkaufsbeginn: 05.06.2004
€ 21,-



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