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Either/Orchestra: Mood Music for Time Travellers

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The 11th disc by the Either/Orchestra rumbles to life with “The (one of a kind) Shimmy,” a funny, rambling piece showcasing veteran E/O trumpeter Tom Halter. Like the rest of the E/O’s first “American” release after years of foreign touring, it’s droll, jammy, friendly, engaging and influenced by the 10-piece band’s work with Ethiopian musicians; its last album, in 2005, was a live double-CD recorded in Addis Ababa.

The mood lightens on “Beaucoups Kookoo,” a svelte merengue squired by the arch tenor of E/O founder Russ Gershon; hard not to dance to this, hard for it not to tickle you. “Coolocity” ups the ante, with Latin percussion bolstering ascending wind and brass vamps. The voicings are more Gil Evans-like on “Portrait of Lindsey Schust,” an homage to a composer and African hand-drum player who, like Either/Orchestra, resides in the Boston area. It’s a thoroughly developed narrative piece marked by conversations between brass and winds. Subtle interplay between Gershon and Alcala, on Hammond B3, adds even more spice.

As its title implies, this CD is atmospheric, mutating and diverse. No need to parse each track or to cast it as holistic. What unifies it is wit, daring and the obvious comfort E/O members enjoy after being together for 25 years. Such longevity and sense of community explain the urgency and complexity of “History Lesson,” a showcase for its composer, bassist Rick McLaughlin, and an unusually exciting piece with which to cap an album.

Originally Published