The Delphian Orchestra

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The Delphian Jazz Orchestra is a seventeen piece ensemble based in New York City that performs the music of composer Justin Mullens and poet Justina Mejias.


The ensemble was founded in 1996 by composer and musician Justin Mullens and poet Justina Mejias. Justin Mullens had been performing his music in New York since 1996 at clubs such as Birdland, The 55 Bar, The Bowery Poetry Club, and The Jazz Standard. He was commissioned to write music that ranged in styles from chamber to "post-modern" jazz in a wide variety of settings. He also had the honor of working with choreographers such as Wendy Blum, Jordan Fuchs, and Molly Rabinowitz.

Mullens graduated from Berklee College of Music with a double major in Composition and Performance. While there, he was the recipient of the Quincy Jones Award for Composition and the Art Farmer Award for Performance.

In addition to recording his own work with The Justin Mullens Quintet and the Delphian Jazz Orchestra, his playing and writing have been featured on albums with The Dimitri Guravitch Quintet, The Paul Olenick Sextet, and Ethan Eubanks. From 1996 to the year 2000, the band played music that was written with a thematic approach and included a collaboration with the poet Justina Mejias. This phase of the Delphian Jazz Orchestra’s repertoire often gravitated towards narrative themes, such as Beowulf,[1] English fairy tales, and Greek mythology. During this period, the orchestra frequently played runs at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe and at The Bowery Poets Cafe. They also played shows at the Gershwin Hotel and the Knitting Factory. From 2000 through 2007, the band focused its attention on instrumental pieces and performed primarily at jazz clubs and performance spaces. This period of the band's development also saw the introduction of multimedia, adding live video to much of the music. The videos, filmed and edited by Justin Mullens, were edited to sync with each piece of music. The Delphian Jazz Orchestra performs music outside the typical parameters of a traditional big band in styles that fall anywhere from the influences of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk to Igor Stravinsky and Frank Zappa.[2]

In 2007, Mullens collaborated with musician/composer Matt Cowan to create a piece of music entitled "S’latch and the Continuum of the Sleestaks" which combined the orchestral music of the band with electronic music that was programmed to sync with the ensemble. In 2008, Mullens decided on a change of instrumentation, and a different approach to the aural space the band played in. The band moved from the traditional 3-row big band structure (trumpets, trombones and saxes) to a wide semi-circle with the instruments situated according to frequency. This gave the compositions a more active role in a space, allowing Mullens to create effects which would be impossible with an ordinary big band structure. In 2010, Mullens continued his writing based on Greek mythology, completing The Heliconian Suite, a nine-piece suite that focused on the various influences of The Muses. This suite took advantage of the band’s semi-circle structure. For example, - panning a single note or melody from one side of the room to another and creating delays and echoes which move around the audience.


The instrumentation of the band is similar to that of a jazz big band: 4 trumpets, 3 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, 2 alto saxophones, 3 tenor saxophones, 1 baritone saxophone, bass, guitar, and drums. In addition, the band makes extensive use of other reeds in the saxophone section: clarinets, bass clarinet, flutes, and French horn.

Musical Genres[edit]

The Delphian Jazz Orchestra covers a wide range of genres. Although its base stems from contemporary jazz, the music throughout the compositions tends to pull from musical styles that lie outside of that idiom. There is a strong orchestral/post-classical influence within the orchestration of the ensemble and the compositions often draw from influences such as Frank Zappa, Charles Ives, Meshuggah, Duke Ellington and Gustav Mahler.[2]


  • John O’Gallagher (alto)
  • Chris Cheek (alto)
  • Pat Tucker (alto & tenor)
  • Doug Yates (alto)
  • Ryan Shore (alto)
  • Peter Hess (tenor, clarinet, flute)
  • Stephan Kammerer (tenor, clarinet)
  • Dave Barraza (tenor, clarinet)
  • Michael McGinnis (tenor, clarinet)
  • Matt Cowan (bari)
  • Brian Landrus (bari, bass clarinet)
  • Dimitri Moderbacher (bari, bass clarinet)
  • Justin Mullens (trumpet)
  • Dave Smith (trumpet)
  • Ben Holmes (trumpet)
  • Eli Asher (trumpet)
  • Brad Mason (trumpet)
  • Larry Gillespie (trumpet)
  • Sam Hoyt (trumpet)
  • Brian Pareschi (trumpet)
  • Brian Drye (trombone)
  • Paul Olenick (trombone)
  • Jacob Garchick (trombone)
  • Tim Albright (trombone)
  • Ben Gerstein (trombone)
  • Alex Heitlinger (trombone)
  • Elliot Mason (trombone)
  • Jeff Bush (trombone)
  • Matt Musselman (trombone)
  • Noah Bless (trombone)
  • Max Seigel (bass, trombone)
  • George Rush (bass)
  • Bob Bowen (bass)
  • Masa Kamaguci (bass)
  • Chris Lightcap (bass)
  • Jacob Sacks (piano)
  • Pete Thompson (guitar)
  • Take Toriyama (drums)
  • Dan Weiss (drums)
  • Vinnie Sperrazza (drums)
  • Rob Garcia (drums)
  • Justina Mejias (poetry/vocals)
  • Judith Berkson (vocals)


Justin Mullens & The Delphian Jazz Orchestra, Justin Mullens & The Delphian Jazz Orchestra. fresh sound records (2003)[3]

Justin Mullens & The Delphian Jazz Orchestra, Tales of Pan & Eyes of Argus. fresh sound records (2009)[3]

List of major compositions[edit]

Tattercoats (1996)

The Viking (1996)

Pietro the Gouty (1997)

The Apple and the Box (1997)

A Set of Triggers (1998)

Beowulf : Parts IIII (1999)

Daphne Laureola (1999)

The Trifler (2000)

Choose Your Own Adventure: Candide (2004)

Prometheus Bound (2005)

Tales of Pan & Eyes of Argus (2006)[4]

S'latch: Part IV (2007)

Dionysus Seeping Through (2008)

Labyrinth (2009)

The Helicon Suite Part I IX (2010-2012)


  1. ^ Siders, Harvey. "Justin Mullens and the Delphian Jazz Orchestra". JazzTimes, Inc. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b Turner, Mark F. "Justin Mullens: Justin Mullens & The Delphian Jazz Orchestra". All About Jazz. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Justin Mullens & The Delphian Jazz Orchestra". BLUE SOUNDS. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  4. ^ album description