Saxophonist Ian O'Beirne's Debut 'Dreams of Dædalus' Out This November
Saxophonist Ian O'Beirne came to prominence touring the world as a saxophonist with the Glenn Miller Orchestra. In 2014, O'Beirne released Glasswork, his debut album with his quintet, which was acclaimed by many critics for its compositional fluency and for O'Beirne's outstanding playing throughout. O'Beirne is now releasing his latest record with his Slowbern Big Band, Dreams of Daedalus, which features a set of his original music and arrangements. It's a vivacious, bright, and inventive big band record which will surely delight. Lush orchestration, memorable solis and a bold compositional vision showcase O'Beirne as a top-flight composer, with saxophone chops to boot.
O'Beirne has been leading Slowbern (formerly Slowburn) since 2010 and he describes the band as a "community" with a large pool of potential members circulating in and out depending upon availability. Dreams of Daedalus features a cast of musicians who have been there since the beginning - Carl Schultz (tenor saxophone), Felix Manzi (drums), Josh Anderson (trumpet), Sandy Eldred (bass) and Dave Bozenhard (guitar). The band also includes many of O'Beirne's old professors at UArts in Philadelphia including John Swana and Tony Miceli, both Philly jazz legends. A trumpet hero of O'Beirne's, Nick Marchione was able to play lead trumpet on the album; Sean Bailey also lent his clarinet acumen to the project doing woodwind overdubs.
For this record O'Beirne knew he wanted to both build on the way the band had been playing together for years, while also stretching his compositional and conceptual skills. Dreams of Daedalus is somewhat of a concept album, the origins of which go back to both a nascent novel of science fiction that O'Beirne has been writing and, jointly, his experience in the Air Force stationed both in the US and abroad. Using these points as his North Star, O'Beirne was able to create a book of music that abounds with creativity, and takes its inspiration from each source equally.
The album's opener "Party City Sapporo" takes its name from a raucous evening of debauchery with a Japanese beer connoisseur and appeared on Glasswork, now re-arranged. "Thom" was originally penned by Brian Donohoe for Snarky Puppy, but was lent to O'Beirne years ago, which he arranged for big band and elaborated upon. "Ding Dong Ditch", originally written from Glenn Miller Orchestra, astounds with a thoroughly spooky, childlike wonder, topped off by a thoroughly hip swing feel.
"Trundlefarbh" O'Beirne quips is "Nonsense word initially but in German it could actually mean "wheel of color" or "pinwheel" in a more poetic interpretation. For some reason though this tune always made me think of the first (admittedly terrible) story I ever wrote: a pastiche of Redwall, Legend of Zelda and a handful of other sci-if/fantasy works. Fantasy epic, incredible journey, knights and heroes and magic, evil oppressive cult in power." That feeling of fantasy and adventure is potent and O'Beirne observes that "this tune feels to me like a voyage of the band of heroes as they make their way to the Sorceror's castle across the Rainbow Sea."
This is followed by the core of the album, the titular "Dreams of Daedalus" suite which is broken into three parts which, without giving too much away, follows the journey of Daedalus, and much ensues: active nanotechnology augmentation, international wars in the year 21XX, etc. The music in these three parts are strictly inspired by the story that O'Beirne is still working out. The compositions are both dark and introspective, while at times possessing memorable, ebullient melodies.
"When War Was King" recalls O'Beirne's first attempts at playing ruleless chess with his brother, imagining themselves as kings battling each other, capturing blissful childhood wonder; "Wanderer" is O'Beirne's attempt at "musically capturing what Miyazaki captures in anime: a hint of the fantastical introduced into everyday life, a perilous personal journey that coincides with some kind of coming-of-age or growing-up-to-do sort of character development."
"Semper Invictus" begins with the most impressive feature for O'Beirne's beefy tenor saxophone playing - an uninterrupted minute and a half solo saxophone solo which exposes many sides of his playing: a warm, lush, classic tenor tone, in possession of language spanning the course of jazz history, with an emotive cry all his own. The album closes with "A World of Endless Dusk" which was spurred on by the thought of whether we will see our loved ones again, once we're dead.
In addition to leading and composing for Slowbern, O'Beirne is a member of the US Air Force Band of the Golden West, stationed at Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA where he is a musical chameleon - performing in big band, concert band, small jazz combos and just started a fledgling saxophone quintet which will be performing commissioned pieces in the beginning of 2018.