volume 1: this is not the answer

volume 1: this is not the answer

What was the question?
Kyle Saulnier
Samuel Barber
Johannes Brahms
Helen Deutsch / Bronislau Kaper
Howard Dietz / Arthur Schwartz
Alan Sparhawk / Low
Brian Wilson / Tony Asher
Thom Yorke / Radiohead
Kyle Saulnier
The Awakening Orchestra
Catalog Number: 
big band

Bronx, NY

Release Date: 
May 27, 2014
Liner Notes: 
2 CD
One Sheet: 

Although it’s right there in the name, it’s not entirely clear whether composer/leader Kyle Saulnier’s Awakening Orchestra is in fact an orchestra, a big band or something entirely and wildly different. Encompassing broad swaths of musical style in both original and recontextualized and re-imagined compositions, the Awakening Orchestra delves deep into traditions from classical to jazz to indie rock on their debut album, volume I: this is not the answer.

Interspersing original work - like the intricate, four-part, title-track symphony - with often radical interpretations of work by Samuel Barber, Radiohead, Johannes Brahms and Low, volume I: this is not the answer crafts a powerful mix of written and improvised material. Throughout, individual expressions of virtuosity blend seamlessly with Kyle Saulnier’s ever-shifting orchestral textures, and the Awakening Orchestra’s eight years of performing experience come through in the nuanced yet strongly-defined ensemble concept that threads through the record.


“[A]s rare an achievement as Carla Bley's historic Escalator Over The Hill (ECM, 1971). The latter work—more jazz-operetta in orientation and prescribed in its thematic flow—nevertheless shares many similar elements and the Awakening Orchestra has created no less of a monumental event. … The title track is a four-part suite and nothing short of a masterpiece. Saulnier's challenging score embraces the diverse families of instruments that make up the Awakening Orchestra. Each of the four movements has a unique personality, drama and subtle beauty that that approaches an altered musical realm without overreaching. … [The] versatility within This Is Not the Answer is exceptional and while the individual pieces can sound episodic at first listen they later gel in a holistic way. … This Is Not the Answer is tour-de-force and one of the best albums of the year.” [FULL ARTICLE]
Karl Ackermann

“[The] insightful Saulnier is constantly pushing the idea that [The Awakening Orchestra] is really just a huge great music band that is not solely intended for only one genre audience. … Everyone improvises and almost cries as you are in the henhouse, but the composers exceptional flexibility with complex arrangement brings water to the right mill. … [A] complete masterpiece … [T]ruly one of the best albums of 2014.” [FULL ARTICLE - Original in Croatian]
Vladimir Horvat

"[Saulnier] builds a soundworld larger than life by drawing from every possible (and impossible) source of inspiration. ... [A] great source of excitement." [FULL ARTICLE]
Francois Couture

"The first disc of this two part extravaganza mixes Nathan Hetehrington’s voice and Samuel Ryder’s driving tenor sax through a miasma of moods. ... A bopping trio grooves on a reading of “Alone Together” along with rich and palpable harmonies, while the orchestra ends the section with a cataclysmic climax of David DeJesus’ alto, Michael MaCallister’s guitar and Felipe Salles’ saxophone. ... Music from the past, present and future is on full display here." [FULL ARTICLE]
George Harris

"Kyle Saulnier's ambitious work the for Awakening Orchestra ... originated from his bitter disillusionment in American society. This disaffection ... led to a unique and masterful work that borrows from many of Saulnier's earlier influences. Those influences catalyze into a superbly performed and unremittingly emotionally charged statement. ... The members of the 20-piece Awakening Orchestra are fully committed to the project and possess a thorough understanding of Saulnier's vision. Not only do they provide searing solos, full of their own evocative talent and personal passions, but also they engage in the memorable unity of sound that distinctive orchestras project. ... Astounding movements release the potential power of the orchestra to claim the listener's attention through dynamic contrasts, engaging themes and superlative individual contributions. ... [T]he album's most complex, most fervent and most thematically relevant piece [is] its centerpiece, the four-part suite, 'This Is Not the Answer.' The suite transports the listener from the 'Overture's' pulsing and ominous soundscapes and the third movement's growing cacophony of fury to the gorgeous shifting colors of 'The Hypocrite and the Hope.' Again, Saulnier knows exactly what he wants from his Orchestra as he conducts his masterpiece, and it delivers."
Bill Donaldson

“The Awakening Orchestra’s first major recording presents a double disc release of more than 100 minutes of stunning music. The 20-piece orchestra is a hybrid group with a jazz big-band instrumentation at its core. Their sound is a little less easy to define. It exists in that space between Charles Mingus, Carla Bley, and Maria Schneider. … [I]t is clear that Saulnier has assembled an exceptional group of musicians. Saulnier doesn’t take any shortcuts in his arrangements, but the musicians rise to the challenge of its difficulty.”