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Out to Dinner: Food Is Medicine (Posi-Tone)

A review of the fourth release from the quintet

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Out to Dinner: Food Is Medicine (Posi-Tone)
The cover of Food Is Medicine by Out to Dinner

Out to Dinner is less a band than a repertory company and a concept. Over four releases to date, the personnel has varied somewhat, but the concept has continued: a tribute to Eric Dolphy’s classic 1964 album Out to Lunch. What Out to Dinner takes from Out to Lunch is the instrumentation and a mindset that might be described as “semi-avant-garde.” The players on Food Is Medicine are Patrick Cornelius (alto saxophone), Behn Gillece (vibraphone), Boris Kozlov (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), and Ryan Keberle (whose trombone replaces Freddie Hubbard’s trumpet in Dolphy’s quintet).

On the Dolphy album, with no piano present, chord progressions are implicit. Out to Dinner shares this proclivity for spontaneous collective harmony, as well as a commitment to kinetic group interplay.

The near reaches of the avant-garde can be a very fertile zone, offering both the excitement of surprise and the reassurance of some structure. Out to Dinner is a tight (except when they’re loose), hot, concise, take-no-prisoners band. Their infectious positive energy starts with the bombardments of the relentless Royston. The player who most determines the overall sound is Gillece. His lingering silvery fills illuminate the ensemble from within. In this hard-hitting band, the heaviest puncher is Keberle. Like a champion boxer, he has all the moves: jabs, hooks, uppercuts, crosses. Cornelius writes cool tunes. His “Waiting for Takeoff” is meticulously assembled from layered refrains yet feels airy. His intriguing “We Dare” is the closest this extroverted group gets to pensiveness.

Out to Dinner is a project with its own proud personality. The Dolphy connection is only an inspirational reference point, not a model. Still, it might be fun to hear them cover one tune from Out to Lunch. In their first four albums, they have not yet taken on that challenge.


Learn more about Food Is Medicine on Amazon and Apple Music.

Thomas Conrad

Thomas Conrad has a BA from the University of Utah and an MA from the University of Iowa (where he attended the Writers Workshop). He taught English at Central State University in Ohio, then left the academic world for the private sector. His affiliation with publications such as JazzTimes, Stereophile, The New York City Jazz Record and DownBeat has enabled him to sustain active involvement in two of his passions: music and writing.