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Either/Orchestra: Freedom Academy

Group celebrates its 25th anniversary


The Either/Orchestra is presently celebrating its 25th anniversary with the release of its first new studio CD in seven years, Mood Music for Time Travellers (Accurate). One person who never anticipated such longevity is the band’s founder and leader, Russ Gershon. “It was just going to be a Monday night rehearsal band,” he says from a car en route to Boston, the E/O’s base since its inception amidst the city’s vibrant club and college scene. “It was going to be fun-we’d get together and drink beer and play charts. I had no intention [for it] to become a working band. But I learned quickly that without a gig to practice for, people were going to lose focus.”

Countless gigs and 11 albums later, the 10-piece ensemble has shape-shifted continually. The E/O’s sound-originally modeled after the expansive, multitextural creations of Gil Evans, Sun Ra and Duke Ellington-has, over the years, absorbed swing, Latin elements and, perhaps most uniquely, Ethiopian music. Gershon plays tenor and soprano saxophones and writes most of the E/O’s material; he and trumpeter Tom Halter are the only remaining full-time members from the initial lineup (although early baritone saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase has returned for the new album). Both Gershon and Halter attribute the Either/Orchestra’s tenacity to its ability to redefine itself each time a new player enters the fold. “Everybody who’s come into the band has brought something to the band and feels appreciated,” says Halter. “So it’s always been a real positive experience. … I can’t think of a single gig that was a drag.”

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