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Orlando le Fleming: Orlando le Fleming & Romantic Funk (OLF)

Thomas Conrad's review of electric album by bassist Orlando le Fleming

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Orlando le Fleming & Romantic Funk album cover
Orlando le Fleming & Romantic Funk album cover

Full disclosure: Given its instrumentation and its description in press notes (“falls somewhere between … early-Jaco-era Weather Report and the spaced-out electronica of late-’70s Herbie Hancock”), the arrival of Orlando le Fleming’s new album did not create initial enthusiasm in these quarters. Weather Report and late-’70s Hancock did not leave much unexhausted terrain for their followers. Le Fleming is a talented acoustic bassist who has made albums of liberated lyricism like 2013’s OWL Trio, with saxophonist Will Vinson and guitarist Lage Lund. The news that he had plugged in and gone funky was not an optimal start to the day.

But le Fleming is too erudite and tasteful a musician to make another dumb funk record. True, this music seeks accessibility through groove. But le Fleming and drummer Ari Hoenig deal in subtle, complex, changeable rhythmic energy, not fixed funk. True, there are banks of Fender, Yamaha, ARP, Hammond and Prophet keyboards. But while saccharine twitterings from these devices can have a trivializing effect on any music, their sonorities here often provide alluring oceanic environments. True, le Fleming plays electric bass exclusively. But his sound is mellifluous, not twangy.

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