The Fully Celebrated Orchestra is an uncommon creature, even in the bizarro world of free jazz. While its music remains firmly rooted in the jazz aesthetic, the orchestra frequently invites other elements to its dance. Invite might be too soft, actually; these players demand action, movement, and depth from rock, soul, funk, and several non-Western influences. Placed into their compositions, the potent mix makes for jazz that is more urgent and youthful than swing, more eclectic than bop. It is, certainly, the future of jazz. (Yeah, I said it!)
On Lapis Exilis the group presents nine songs that cover a vibrant range of possibilities. The compositions, all written by the group's leader, 37-year-old alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, are brilliant in execution, unfolding and unraveling with assertion and charm. The group of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum, bassist Timo Shanko (last year's excellent Freedom Right Now), and drummer Django Carranza meets the composer's challenge with appropriate zest; they are soft and lush when pensive, strong and brash when excited.
Songs like the Indian-derived "Lord of Creatures," "Lapis Exilis," and the almost mariachi-like "Farewell" come gently, while "Throne of Osiris," "The Mackie Burnette," and "Billylillylillybilly" are jagged, angled, and wild. As the album progresses, the group's ability to play lucid melodies in either the inside or outside traditions of jazz is remarkable, fun and accessible. These players never lose the listener in abstractions or oddities that might scare and/or intimidate. Lapis Exilis is truly an adventure, a wonderful view into the possibilities and promises of jazz.
Personnel: Jim Hobbs: alto sax; Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet; Timo Shanko: bass; Django Carranza: