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The past 25 years have been a time of transition for The Either/Orchestra. Members have come and gone and come back again. Their music has imbibed several styles and genres and grown all the richer. One of the sagest moves they made was the long, and fruitful, collaboration with Ethiopian music and with musicians that included Mahmoud Ahmed, Getachew Mekurya and Mulatu Astatke,
For this recording, Russ Gershon wrote a couple of tunes geared to the organ after he got a Hammond A-100. "Coolocity" hits the right grooves, a saucy tune that deftly blends different slices of musicality. The brass is seamless in its linearity and instead of merely serving as a complement to the soloist also turn around and become tangents from the main body. As the horns beguile, the rhythm of this catchy melody is blooded by Vicente Lebron and his array of percussive effects. It's all put together cohesively, sitting comfortably on the edge of complexity while divining an irresistible beat.
"Ropa Loca" is a delicious slice of Latin music. The horns, at first smooth and agile but by no means sappy, turn into sharp interjections when trombonist Joel Yennior comes in to solo and turns in a sheaf of endearing concepts. The saxophones are a natural in the scope of the performance, and both Gershon and Godwin Louis swing in with deep rooted alacrity. However, the final wisp adds a neat turn as Henry Cook sails in and out on the gossamer wings of his flute.
Bassist Rick McLaughlin composed the majestic "Thirty Five" with Fela Kuti in mind. He used the Ethiopian anchi hoye mode which gives the tune a distinct essence and turns it into poetry in motion. The tinkle of the piano, the resonance of the bass, the jingle of the cymbals welcome the saxophone as it delineates the refrain. And as the charts of this outfit dictate, the ensemble comes in all silken and near classical in mood to complete the harmonic progression.
The one defining constant about The Either/Orchestra is that they never compromise artistic integrity. Time could well have made them jaded, instead they continue to entrance and entertain as this CD evidences.
Track Listing: The (One of a Kind) Shimmy; Baucoups Kookoo; Coolocity; Portrait of Lindsey Schust; Ropa Loca; Thirty Five; Latin Dimensions; The Petrograd Revision; Suriname; History Lesson.
Personnel: Tom Halter: trumpet; Daniel Rosenthal: trumpet; Joel Yennior: trombone; Godwin Louis: alto saxophone; Russ Gershon: tenor and soprano saxophones; Charlie Kohlhase: baritone saxophone (1, 2, 6, 7, 8); Kurtis Rivers: baritone saxophone (3, 9, 10); Henry Cook: flute (4, 5); Rafael Alcala: piano, Hammond organ.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.