Sultans of String get symphonic
The Sultans of String, led by Beach violinist Chris McKhool, have just released their fourth album, the sweeping and dramatic Symphony!
While the disc was intended to be their third, arranging for a full orchestra to play with the long-time local favourites turned out to take some time. So much time, in fact, that the band recorded and release Move in the meantime, and Symphony! became the group’s fourth album.
Rebecca Pellett wrote the album’s arrangements to strike a balance between the band and the symphony, and the tunes, from the playful Monti’s Revenge, to the exotic Road to Kfarmishki to the dramatic Luna, succeed on that level.
Although this is the first recording the band has done with an orchestra, McKhool had been hearing parts for a symphony in his mind for years. The Sultans would be playing at Ten Feet Tall on the Danforth as a trio, and “I could hear these parts in my head, but no one else in the bar could hear them.”
Featuring an all-Canadian orchestra, the album splits its time between reimaginings of previously released tunes and new songs specifically written for this album.
“Everyone said I was crazy to do it in Canada, it’s way too expensive,” said McKhool. “But we’ve got the most amazing players in the world right here in Toronto.”
Symphony! is also the first Sultans of String disc to get full distribution in the US, which has McKhool looking forward to a whole new level of success.
After several dates over the past year playing concerts with a full symphony orchestra, the band will be holding the official Toronto release for the album at Koerner Hall on Sunday, Dec. 1, with the help of the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra. McKhool will be joined by band mates Kevin Laliberté on guitar, Eddie Paton on guitar, Drew Birston on bass and percussionist Rosendo ‘Chendy’ Leon.
While performing in front of a full orchestra is inspiring, McKhool said it can be hard to concentrate.
“It’s beautiful and glorious and slightly distracting. Sometimes I’m playing and I just want to listen to the music behind me,” he said.
While the Sultans are known for their improvisation and energetic live show, McKhool said performing with an orchestra also sets some strict limitations on the band.
“If your solo is 16 bars, your solo is 16 bars. The orchestra is moving on at the end of that,” he said.
Still, the room is there for magic to happen within the forms of the written music, and the energy of the full orchestra is hard to beat, he said. Crowds have been responding enthusiastically, with an interesting crossover happening – world and jazz fans are discovering orchestral music, while fans of classical music are delving into the sounds of the Sultans.
The Sultans of String will hold their official CD release at Koerner Hall, 273 Bloor St. W., on Sunday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. Check performance.rcmusic.ca for more details. Symphony! Is available in stores, on the iTunes store and through sultansofstring.com.
Visit the Beach Metro News Facebook page for a chance to win a ‘box set’ of all four Sultans of String albums.