Adam Rudolph convened a ten night ritual in his Temple of the Infinite Now with the Go:Organic Orchestra. Venice's Electric Lodge housed the spontaneous combustion and over the ten days saw a parade of talent that included Bennie Maupin, Mark Dresser, Jeremy Drake, Harris Eisenstadt, Trevor Ware, Ralph Jones, Sara Schoenbeck, and others. Rudolph has created a huge extended musical family that attracts musicians from across generations and genres. The premise of the residency held that Rudolph wouldn't know who, or how many would play on any given night. Indeed, on that night musicians continued to arrive into the first performance, finally numbering 25, mostly flutes, winds, and drums.
Drawing a near capacity crowd on a Wednesday night, this edition of the usually acoustic Orchestra included four bass players including Dresser and Ware, and electric guitarist Drake. A more animated conductor than Leonard Bernstein, Rudolph paces the stage, tweaking, cajoling, imploring, ornamenting, augmenting, most of all listening, sculpting the sound as it passes. Through a system of cues, he literally plays the orchestra, whether holding up a number of fingers or jabbing the air before a group of players coaxing a burst to punctuate a riff. Recent recipient of LA Weekly's Best World Music band of 2005, the orchestra achieved a pangaeic sound utilizing wind and percussion instruments from every corner of the globe.
Cueing the seven-member percussion pit possessed of tablas, talking drums, wood drums, shakers, drum kit, cowbells, and congas, Rudolph births the groove. With occasional fanfare splash from the winds, Dresser digs in for one of several ear popping virtuosic displays. Ralph Jones blows golden on soprano, skillfully navigating the unfolding work in progress. The dramatic, portentous walls of tinted sound respond to Rudolph's direction and turn serene for a duet by the two bassoonists. Throughout the ensemble, all eyes remain fixed on Rudolph.
As though a wizard shaking sound from his sleeves, his every gesture results in shifts and splashes. After a tabla intro, the entire wind section picks up wooden woodwinds, creating beautiful sounds. With a wave of the hand they drop out leaving the rhythm. An accordion soloist soon joined by clarinet and drums suggest a klezmer sound, then kalimbas, bamboo knockers and flutes evoke a tropical wind chime garden. A soporific Javanese feel capitulates to a sound storm conjured by Rudolph's direction.
Drake and Dresser play call and response, then intertwine. Fontice McCain weaves her flute into their lines. The four basses keen on harmonics, growing into a cycle. A rocking percussion section highlighted by an athletic Eisenstadt workout brings the ensemble to its feet in a cathartic cacophony of joy, and then fades.
It's so dense. It's amazing to sit in the middle of it, Drake said after the performance. "We just watch Adam and hope it sounds all right," Ware commented. Following the Venice fortnight, Rudolph took off for performances in Denmark, Norway, and Vancouver.