Ballroom Marfa Art Fund
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The Marfa Triptych: The Country & Western Big Band Suite

16 Nov 2013


Marfa, Texas

The Country & Western Big Band Suite

Graham Reynolds

Commissioned by Ballroom Marfa, The Country and Western Big Band Suite was the first installment of The Marfa Triptych, three portraits of West Texas envisioned by Graham Reynolds. The project was an instrumental suite for 14 players, described by Reynolds as “classic instrumental country meets Western soundtrack meets power jazz rhythm section.” The project culminated in a live performance at the Crowley Theater in 2014 and a full-length album released in November of 2019.

The album features legendary country guitarist Reid Volkaert (Merle Haggard), the celestial pedal steel of Ricky Davis (Dale Watson), and adventurous contemporary string quartet Invoke, all alongside a horn and rhythm section comprised of several of Reynolds’ longtime cohorts. The opening track “Good Morning, Marfa” evokes the warmth of the sun emerging over the peaks of the Davis Mountains and introduces one of the album’s central musical themes. The up-tempo train anthem of “Union Pacific” pairs nicely with the rollicking ranch and cattle themed “Stampede.” “Highway 67” conveys the majestic and ethereal dip south from interstate 10 just past Fort Stockton, which geographically continues on to the Mexican bordertown of “Ojinaga.” Dazzling and virtuosic guitar work courtesy of Redd Volkaert is highlighted on “Redd Redd Redd” and “Goat Herd.” The string quartet “Runaway” builds on the earlier ride on the rails, while “The Uninhabited” mixes western soundtrack with the often-overlooked keyboard sorcery of Graham Reynolds; a meditation on the vast and rugged West Texas landscape that is also apparent on “The Chihuahuan Desert.”

The project was inspired by Reynolds’ trips from his base in Austin, Texas to the high desert grasslands of Far West Texas. His approach combines local musical traditions – from cowboy songs and Southern jazz to the norteño music of Northern Mexico – with a personal perspective that comes from years of scoring film, theater and modern dance performances.

Reynolds spent a significant amount of time working with Ballroom Marfa to coordinate research trips throughout the region. His itinerary included visits with musicians, historians, storytellers, artists and local legends from Terlingua, Alpine, Presidio, Shafter, Fort Davis, Valentine, Marfa and other far-flung locales in the Big Bend region.

The Album


A performance of the song “Stampede” at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas.