Go: Organic Orchestra Levitates Electric Lodge
Los Angeles, CA
Adam Rudolph took a couple of weeks off from his world travels and high profile collaborations to convene his annual Nemeton of the Now, the Go: Organic Orchestra. These yearly concerts amount to a self-contained music festival featuring some of LA's top players spanning generations. The ten performances over two weeks present nightly shifts in personnel and program. Each night's ensemble assembles the group of musicians who show up, somewhere in number between 12 and 42. The evening's lineup presents surprises for Rudolph, just as his navigating through each composition's options surprises the players. Beginning with sets of patterns and agreed upon cues, Rudolph guides the course of the unfolding performances signaling accents, altering configurations, changing rhythm structures.
I witnessed two performances a week apart. Both nights featured ensembles of predominately percussion and flutes. One night boasted four bass players, the next only one, joined later in the evening by a second. One night featured Jazz Legend Bennie Maupin, the next without Bennie, but with bassoonist Sara Schoenbeck. One week Ellen Burr joined the flute section, the following week, Emily Hay. The second week featured the legendary Kongo master Big Black in the percussion section, as well as a surprise visit from Dwight Trible applying spontaneous wordless vocal power. One week found Miguel Atwood-Ferguson on electric violin, the next week Ronit Kirchman plugged in. Gladiators holding down positions for the long haul included Harris Eisenstadt drums, Nick Rosen bass, Jeremy Drake guitar, Munyungo Jackson percussion, Thomas Stones winds, Andres Renteria percussion, Ralph Jones winds, Rebekah Raff harp, Chris Dingman vibes, and 16 year old prodigy Austin Peralta blowing winds from alto flute to tin whistle.
Illustrating how differently the music evolved on given evenings, the first week Rudolph cued tablas, tamboura, and harp, while setting a Jimmy Garrison bass line in motion. Add a warm soulful Maupin bass clarinet solo, inspired Atwood-Ferguson fiddling, and the ensemble moved into a spontaneous Alice Coltrane tribute. The following week a similar pattern yielded far different results. Raff's electrified harp met Myka Miller on oboe, and even with tabla and tamboura, different options exercised by Rudolph sidestepped the ethereal for a spikier earth based excursion.
Maupin's alto flute rose like a rich incense, while impassioned flights on bass clarinet found collaboration with Jackson's playful percussion and Jones' equally inspired bc duets. Big Black's presence tilted the emphasis toward the teeming percussion section, with the master's presence holding his fellow drummers in awe. His stunning technique manifested in hands that at times seemed to barely move while manufacturing beats with the speed of a hyper kinetic tap dancer. At one point, Jones fed the intensity by walking across the stage to blaze soprano sax toe to toe with the iconic drummer.
And through it all, Rudolph danced, waved, spun, mugged, gestured broadly, subtly, and sent the winds into trilling frenzies by wiggling his fingers. It's his starship, afterall, and even after nine exhausting nights, it was still nothing but a joyride.