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JAZZ REVIEW : Fun With the Either/Orchestra at Bon Appetit

No, it’s not a musical adaptation of Soren Kierkegaard’s existential treatise. It’s the Either/Orchestra, a 10-piece brass heavy ensemble from Cambridge, Mass., that likes to explore the future from a place well grounded in the past.

In its first set Monday at Bon Appetit in Westwood, the Either/ Orchestra showed that, like Sun Ra’s various Arkestra editions, it has pretensions to space travel but also knows its way around a few standards.

The instrumentation (two trumpets, two trombones, clarinet, saxes, keyboards, bass and drums) provides for a variety of configurations and orchestrating combinations. The group’s arrangements are filled with call and response exchanges, periods of dynamic mischief and lots of teasing lines.

In short, this band’s a lot of fun.

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Led by saxophonist Russ Gershon, the ensemble gave a tight reading of Johnny Hodges’ “The Jeep Is Jumpin’,” which featured Douglas Yates’ slippery clarinet work, a swaggering rendition of Bennie Moten’s “Moten Swing” and a twisted medley of Thelonious Monk’s “Nutty” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.”

Trombonist Curtis Hasselbring’s “Born in a Suitcase” was the most ambitious of the evening’s pieces, allowing keyboardist John Medeski to build a quiet block chord statement into an onslaught worthy of Cecil Taylor. Abdullah Ibrahim’s “African Market” found most of the horns moving into the audience and out the door onto the rain-swept sidewalks, where they continued to play while the rhythm section cooked away on stage.

Even Kierkegaard would agree. Music this good justifies being. The orchestra also appeared Tuesday at System M in Long Beach.


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