Retreat To Beauty (Oblation Vol 3.: Providence!)
Release date: October 20, 2023
Label: Cellar Music Group

On this seminal release, Drye joins forces with esteemed orchestrator Isaac Raz and an ensemble of over twenty musicians. Retreat To Beauty takes its cues from landmark orchestral recordings within the Black American musical idiom, paying particular attention to the iconic Clifford Brown with Strings. The album delivers breathtaking lush arrangements of jazz standards and original material, giving a deft modern twist to a classic orchestral jazz sound.

Drye is joined by a deeply adept rhythm section comprised of pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Ben Wolf, and drummer Donald Edwards. The ensemble sound is augmented by David Bertrand and Myron Walden on flutes, John Ellis on clarinets, trumpeter Charlie Porter, trombonists Willie Applewhite and David Gibson, french horn players Patrick Milando and Alexandra Cook, Becca Patterson on tuba, violinists Christina Courtin and Trina Basu, cellist Marika Hughes, violist Jessica Troy, bassist Brandi Disterheft, as well as  vocalists Kim Kimistri Kalesti and AC Lincoln. Three actors on the first track, Vondie Curtis Hall, Sebastien Stoller, and David Stoller, set the tone for the album with a delightful tableau of a father bringing his daughter to hear a jazzy orchestra for the very first time.

Rarely does an album successfully marry tradition and innovation, meeting the sounds of yesteryear with the tastes and sensibilities of the modern day - this is only one of the impossible feats that Drye and Raz accomplish with Retreat To Beauty. Equally rare is an album that successfully encapsulates the raw thrill and energy of hearing a live orchestral jazz performance while retaining the crystal clarity and nuance of a studio release. Retreat To Beauty (Oblation Vol 3., Providence!), the third installment in Drye’s long standing Oblation series figures around ‘providence’, referring to a divine guidance. ‘Oblation’ refers to the act of offering in a spiritual manner - like so many classic albums before it. On the album’s twelve tracks, Drye delivers his melodic refrains with urgency and an unerring soulfulness, befitting the album’s dedication.

Drye’s composition and delivery, and Raz’s orchestration conjure moments of Clifford Brown, Ben Webster, Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker, while adding inventive melodies and harmonic passages that can be perceived as a natural extension and continuation of the style as a living creative framework, and not solely a conserved legacy. Raz reflects: “It was vitally important that the irreplaceable feeling of a live performance with a full orchestra be the gold standard for this project. While many modern-day artists utilize excellent, high-quality string samples, sometimes even mixed with live over-dubbed performances by real musicians in the studio, there simply is no substitute for the communal experience of a large ensemble of musicians performing a work together, nor the sound. It is the cumulative effect of community and artistry that cannot be replaced by any technology and is the only way to truly give this style its due.”

37”, the album’s first musical piece, opens with the unmistakable and yet unique sound of a violin bow rhythmically bouncing on the strings to playfully set the cadence for the tune. Fortner trickles in with some decidedly modern harmonic refrains and then we’re off - Drye’s horn soars above the sonic tapestry created by the orchestra. Right off the bat, one notices the immense interplay and dynamic sensibilities that allow this large ensemble to feel absolutely unified. The ensemble brings its magic to the Strayhorn classic “Isfahan” - this harmonically rich arrangement explores both the bright and dark sides of this hallmark standard. A particular highlight is Drye’s tremendously lyrical solo taking place alongside melodic accompaniment from the string section. 

Drye’s original composition “Friend” compliments the brightness and modern complexity of other compositions with a wistful quality and a refreshing traditional simplicity. Another Drye composition “Oblation”, initially recorded on the 2003 album of the same name, brings an irresistible tight-pocket groove and lyrical trumpet melody into the mix. The Thelonious Monk composition “Reflections” is delivered here with an ease that is rare on modern jazz recordings, harmonic refrains effortlessly intertwined with supple melodies and rhythmic intrigue.

Drye’s stunning facility on the horn is demonstrated on the Sondheim classic “Send in the Clowns”. With an arrangement by Isaac Raz and reharmonization by pianist Jonathan Lefcoski, the piece has a fantastic harmonic depth explored by the full ensemble. The album concludes with an original composition from vocalist Kim Kimistri Kalesti entitled “Ringing in The Bells”. This composition is the perfect vehicle to explore the lushness of this orchestration, ending the album with a lush sweetness.

"This is a beautiful album that combines original compositions by Drye with well-known works by Louis Armstrong, David Raksin and Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim and Billy Strayhorn." Check out the full feature here.

"...Drye’s playing is melodic with some outbursts of subtle creativity during the lush set." Check out the full article here.

"Drye’s trumpet is crystal clear, his articulation is precise and his improvisations are perfectly suited to the songs." Check out the full review here.

"Antoine Drye’s “retreat to beauty” is a trip that we all can treasure in these turbulent times. Its sublime beauty will warm the heart, and its soothing arrangements add to the journey." Check out the full review here.

"Sublimely slow and majestic, the elegant treatment by trumpeter Antoine Drye and his fellow musicians is certainly a highlight, but there's plenty more to recommend this enjoyable release, such as the haunting, gorgeous theme from the film noir Laura and the Billy Strayhorn composition, "Isfahan."" Check out the full feature here.

"He's the primary soloist, of course, and rises to the occasion with poised playing that exudes confidence and control." Check out the full feature here.

Check out this feature on Textura's best of 2023 list here.

"Creative and contemplative." Check out the full review here.

"This is one of the most gorgeous albums I have heard in the year twenty-twenty-three." Check out the full feature here.

"A strong rhythm section comprising pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Donald Edwards holds down the fort as Drye’s buttery sound floats above, accented by shimmering strings and woodwinds." Check out the full feature here.

Check out this feature on the editors playlist here.