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Fresh Cut Orchestra: From The Vine

Chris M. Slawecki By

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In late 2012, the Painted Bride Art Center of Philadelphia commissioned local musicians Jason Fraticelli (bass), Anwar Marshall (drums) and Josh Lawrence (trumpet) to collaboratively compose new music for a ten-piece ensemble. "The Painted Bride contacted us about putting together this music, and we all agreed pretty much from the get-go about who we wanted to bring in to complete the band," Marshall explains. "Then once we got everyone together, the cohesion just happened super easily. From the first time we sat down with the guys, I said, 'Oh, yeah, this is going to be a blast.'"

That ensemble became known as the Fresh Cut Orchestra; From the Vine, recorded through a grant from the Pew Center's Philadelphia Music Project, is their debut. As you can imagine, the Spirit of Philadelphia flies high and strong throughout this release. "We have sort of a musical gumbo here that a lot of other places don't have," Marshall continues. "In other cities, you can sort of stay in a certain niche and work with only a handful of people but in Philly, in order to survive as a musician, you've got to be able to play some groovier music."

Lawrence chips in the Ellingtonian ballroom dance "Uptown Romance," and the set closes upon Marshall's "Sanguine," streamlined fusion jazz that glides along on electric keyboards like a Donald Fagen solo track. But Fraticelli's powerful six-movement "The Mothers' Suite" is this Vine's primary fruit. "Suite II: Mother's Love" paints her portrait in Latin percussion and piano that matures into a vibrant and full Latin orchestra—magnificent music, triumphantly played, which paints a portrait of a most passionate and beautiful woman.

"Suite III: Elegy for a Mom" rips open darker emotions, an acoustic bass soliloquy that throbs and aches first with loneliness, then pain, and then with rage that subsides into the beautifully sad, ruminative acoustic piano of "Suite IV: The Funeral."

"Suite V: Migration of the Spirit" drives like Charles Mingus on a hard and fast, imposing bass line that the horn ensemble quickly picks up to throw down, a roaring furnace of fiery music that culminates in "Suite VI: The Reawakening," a celebratory New Orleans toe-tapper with trombone, saxophone and trumpet all ripping up their respective corners of the joint at once. Brian Marsella's acoustic piano solo thickly scrambles New Orleans, traditional jazz and modern jazz styles; one can only hope that the afterlife really DOES swing like this!

From the Vine grows more impressive with each hearing. "We have so much music, and it's so easy for us to write different compositions for small versions of the band, or for different concepts," Fraticelli suggests. "We're just getting started."

Track Listing: The Mothers’ Suite, Movement I - Birth of a Child; The Mothers’ Suite, Movement II - Mother's Love; The Mothers’ Suite, Movement III - Ritual of Take; The Mothers’ Suite, Elegy for a Mom; The Mothers’ Suite, Movement IV - The Funeral; The Mothers’ Suite, Movement V - Migration of the Spirit; The Mothers’ Suite, Movement VI - The Reawakening; Uptown Romance; Sanguine.

Personnel: Mark Allen: saxophones; Mike Cemprola: saxophones; Brent White: trombone; Brian Marsella: piano & keyboards; Matt Davis: guitar; Tim Conley: guitar & laptop electronics; Francois Zayas: percussion; Josh Lawrence: trumpet & flugelhorn; Jason Fraticelli: upright bass; Anwar Marshall: drums.

Title: From The Vine | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Ropeadope

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