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January/February 2000

Orange Then Blue
Hold the Elevator - Live in Europe and Other Haunts
GM Recordings

The enormous appeal of avant garde big band Orange Then Blue is drawn mainly from their wide musical spectrum, which successfully incorporates worldly influences like Balkan, Afro-Hispanic, and klezmer music without sacrificing jazz's sense of swing and improvisation. The group also enlists some of the finest musicians, who always nudge at the precipice of any given composition, transforming each performance into a suspense-filled moment. Hold the Elevator's "best of" collection of live performances from 1994-1995 is an apt documentation of Orange Then Blue's potency.

Compositions like "Alino Oro" and "Rufus 7" preclude The Downtown Scene's current obsession with Balkan music. While "Alino Oro" is a jubilant romp featuring Chris Speed's swirling clarinet, "Rufus 7" is an evocative meditation where cellist and composer Rufus Cappadocia delivers a brooding solo before the composition gives way to a heated bebop/Balkan excursion brimming with intense collective improvisations. Orange Then Blue's nod to Ellingtonia is also a scintillating moment with the rare, Latin-tinged "Smada." The extensive exploration of Tim Berne's "Bloodcount" is also a thing of rare beauty as the ensemble draws every ounce of plasma from the composition through its usage of smeared textures, loose-limbed rhythms, and overlapping solos.

While it's evident that Orange Then Blue contains some of the most intriguing soloists of this generation, what's even more exciting are originals like saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo's playful yet mind-boggling "Sich Reped" and Andy Laster's sensational ballad, "Stentor," which indicates that the ensemble is steadily building a repertoire as uniquely daring as their sound.

Originally published in January/February 2000
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