The Wings of Fire Orchestra
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The Wings of Fire Orchestra

Band Jazz Classic Rock


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"15. The Wings of Fire Orchestra, Bullfighter Ballet, 2006"

Ironic jazz-pop, kind of like Steely Dan meets Dave Matthews meets Cake meets New York Voices, with a horn section to boot—I mean, a big-band orchestra! Almost like show music, especially when events happen like a chorus of girls asking “Can you tell the difference between a genius and an idiot from far away,” just before a “quarterback” yells “hike” (there’s a “college life” theme to the album) it’s playful and original, unlike anything out there. The band jams hard too. The musicianship is first-rate.

As with Cake, there’s more winky irony here, and less seriousness about the songs’ subject matter, than suits our taste. But also like Cake, there’s no doubting the intelligence of the creators. And unlike Cake, there’s more impressive live musicianship here.

There is, actually, a jazz classic-style love ballad on the album, and it’s gorgeous. Go figure. Afterwards, it’s back to funky weirdness.

This project comes completely out of left field, but there’s a huge amount of work and talent here. A vision unlike anything you’ve heard.

Here’s a strange conclusion: it’s not really intelligent pop. It’s not even pop. It’s some kind of avant-garde jazz fusion experiment. If we were “” it would be #1. Can you tell words are failing me in my attempt to make sense of this record? The closest I can come is that it’s the jazz-fusion Cake.

But it makes the top 20 because, actually, it’s flat amazing.

Therefore, recommended. Strongly, actually. Somebody out there has to push the edge, and Pflaumbaum and colleagues are doing it in a musically sophisticated way. Get it and see if you can make some sense of this strange offering. Highly recommended for exploration. And will someone tell us who these guys are?


"Bullfighter Ballet review -"

Even for a guy like me, who has heard his share of musical variety over the years, nothing else has come along quite like Bullfighter Ballet by The Wings of Fire Orchestra. This concept album, inspired by Thomas Wolfe’s novel Look Homeward Angel, is performed by 20 students and alumni from the prestigious Berklee College of Music.

Jeff Pflaumbaum, who sings lead vocals and plays keyboards, composed and arranged this unique suite. It is divided into three acts: I & II the Bullfighter Ballet and III Factoryland. It sounds like horn-drenched soul music one minute and an arty musical the next, keeping you on the edge of your seat.

This CD opens with a Mexican-sounding fanfare, with trumpet blaring over acoustic guitar, for a track titled “Welcome to the Show.” This one is followed up with “C Town,” which is all about life in Chicago. “C Town” rolls with funky horns like it’s a Tower Of Power leftover. Pflaumbaum vacillates back and forth with wide ranging musical emotions throughout.

Bullfighter Ballet is an ambitious work. It’s especially meant for those who appreciate the education and skill - the exact sort learned at Berklee College - it took to make it all happen. It isn’t for everybody, but if you truly get it, you’ll absolutely dig it.

Dan MacIntosh - (Feb 3, 2007)


"Prospice Review -"

The Wings of Fire Orchestra is like nothing I’ve heard for at least the past two decades. I am impressed on so many levels, not sure where to start. This album is like a pizza with the works. Blending classic symphonic elements with a rock & roll drive, a funky, booty-shakin’ groove and building it around a concept, The Wings of Fire Orchestra has succeeded with Prospice and have certainly gained a new fan here.

As I listen to the tracks, I keep thinking of all of those that came before and how the WoFO have clearly learned a thing or two from some of our legendary music pioneers. A complex web of influence has made fertile soil for composer Jeff Pflaumbaum in the growth of his original, very unique, colorful work. Freddie Mercury would be proud, I can feel his spirit in this music and the way this project stretches its wings in an all encompassing way. I hear colors of Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead and maybe a sprinkle of Phish bringing the listener plenty of crunchy texture to satisfy.

Creeping along conjuring images of the west side’s Sharks & Jets, tracks like "Delta Street" brought to mind a stage full of streetwise thugs on Broadway whose passion lies in spontaneous, campy group dancing with plenty of high kicks and drama. I suppose the use of the choral singing elements throughout the album do much to nurture visions of a large theater ensemble cast.

This is not music that sits comfortably in the corner tucked behind conversations and chatter. It demands attention and plays itself out as a full stage production behind the eyes. My wish is that Jeff Pflaumbaum gets the recognition he deserves and a spot in music history that he is etching with his skillful composition and production of this amazing piece of conceptual candy.

Intent to keep my opinions unfettered and pure, I knew nothing about this CD until I slipped it into the player. What a fun and unexpected surprise I found in Prospice. I have the feeling that I will love it even more with each play. I’d listen to this, turned up to drown out the rhythm of the road on my next road trip till I learn the words by heart. Someday, I would just love to see this played out as a full stage production, complete with sets and costume and choreography. I’d raise my glass and propose a toast to the entire cast of characters and sounds that make up the Wings of Fire Orchestra. I’ll bring the whiskey. Bravo WoFo!

-Rachel Sedacca

"Prospice review -"

The title (nay, honor) of being America’s largest rock-orchestra is one that comes with weighty expectations Bombast, high concept and a name that conveys the proper level of awesome are all necessities. The Wings of Fire Orchestra have answered the call admirably with their second album, Prospice.

The bombast is not challenge, obviously. Being the largest American (are they not the biggest in the world?) rock-orchestra lends itself to spectacle. But the music also conveys bombast, wonderfully and joyfully. Shades of ELO, Pink Floyd and Meat Loaf color the entire album. WoFO shares E.L.O’s penchant for drastically shifting the tone of a song midway through, but never in a jarring way. Every curveball that is thrown is welcome.

The high concept is where things get dodgy for WoFO. Prospice is broken up into two “sides.” Side one is based on the Robert Browning poem, “Prospice.” Side two is split into two parts, a four part song suite titled “Oh Busy Air” and the final four tracks which have no overarching theme. Why the entire album is named after a poem that only half of the album is based on is unclear. The CD packaging contains several quotations under the headings “change…” and “become…” from the likes of Andy Warhol, Frederick Douglass and Charles Lindbergh, “Change, Become” is one of the songs on side one. Seemingly the quotations and the song would be related, but the song (and Browning’s poem) is about bravely facing death. The concepts in Prospice are numerous and are put together haphazardly, which goes to show that horse racing, Victorian and songs about air are like oil and water.

Despite the tangled web that has been woven, the music still shines through. The horn playing is forceful and attention grabbing and really carry the album. “Lyin’ In the Fields Alone” opens with a metal guitar riff but quickly shifts to a ska-style toe-tapper. It is the best song because it combines everything that is good about WoFO: exploration within a song (but not at the song’s expense), great musicianship and a pop sensibility. When a song is good, like this one and most of the rest are, it doesn’t matter what the theme or thesis is. It’s just good music.

Dennis Mersmann staff writer



Full-length Albums:
Bullfighter Ballet (2006)
Prospice (2009)

The Real Fire (live)
Between High & Low Reality (live)
Welcome to the Show - as used in the Meatloaf Documentary, 'In Search of Paradise'



... in the spirit of all the great horn-bands of the late 60's and 70's and in the hope of the great songwriter/composer Jimmy Webb, Brian Wilson, Vangelis, Aram Schefrin & Michael Zager, Michael Kaman and others. The Wings of Fire Orchestra is lead by rock & roll composer Jeff Pflaumbaum. WoFO is a six-horn, mixed vocal, 5-piece rhythm section ensemble ushering in a new age of conceptual music.