Can you set Homer's tale of brave Ulysses to music? It's been done by Cream on their Disraeli Gears album, but NYC composer Russ Kaplan ups the ante with a full suite dedicated to classic poem of Homer. He assembled a septet and recorded The Ulysses Cycle. A musical omnivore such a he couldn't resist incorporating elements of classical music, jazz, dixieland, electro, hip-hop and indie rock.
The story in brief: our hero fight in the Trojan War and gets lost while making his way home to Ithaca and his lovely wife Penelope. He hooks up with some damsels in distress along the way, escapes monsters, his ship mates get stoned and he messes around with a cyclops. Finally he makes it back to Ithaca, only to find that is palace is crawling with suitors who want to marry his wife, kills them all and lives happily ever after. Well, not really, the ancient Greeks didn't care for Hollywood endings.
Kaplan had his work cut out for him trying to fit in all of the above and then some in 20 pieces of music, but he pulled it off, using various genres to capture the mood of a particular scene. It helps if you are familiar with the story, but you don't need a degree in Greek poetry of get the gist of what is going on. Bear that in mind and it makes perfect sense that he used Thirties jazz to accompany the singer in Lotus Eater (drugs, jazz, get it?).
The Ulysses Cycle is released on Ropeadope. The players: trumpet player Jonathan Powell (Eddie Palmieri, Blitz the Ambassador), saxophonists Kyle Aulnier (Awakening Orchestra) and Mike McGinnis (Stu and the Negro Problem, The Four Bags), guitarist Tom Gavin (Moore & Sons), bassist Moppa Elliott (Mostly Other People Do the Killing), drummer Wayan Zoey (The Funk Ark), and percussionist Rohin Khemani (Red Baraat).Tracks:
- The Sack
- Listen! (ii)
- Lotus Eater
- Pigz in Space
- Siren Song
- Listen! (iii)
- Homeward / Mother Earth
- Intruders (The House Party)
- What's Mine
- Back Together
- The Trial
- It's Not Too Late
- 04/09 CD release party @ The Living Room, New York, NY
- 05/26 CD release party @ Rockwood Music Hall, New York, NY