Jazz is not normally a music of traveling bands. It's difficult to pay a steady group of musicians enough to stay together for a long period, and because of the music's improvisatory nature, musicians can get together and create incredible works with a minimum of preparation and rehearsal.
This is not to say that a steady band can't come up with something special. Put the kind of talent necessary to play jazz into a consistent lineup, send them out on the road to play night after night, and you'll hear some truly transcendent music. This is the premise of the Either/Orchestra.
Russ Gershon has been leading the Either/Orchestra for almost 15 years now. Musicians -- including John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood and Mark Sandman of Morphine -- have come and gone, but there has always been a consistent vision: Gershon is interested in textures and arrangements, and his band plays music of great depth and intelligence.
The Either/Orchestra has just released a new album, More Beautiful Than Death (Accurate). Though only a few members remain from the last recording, made four years ago, the sound is classic and the material as strong as ever.
The nine cuts show stylistic influences ranging from calypso to mambo to blues to Ethiopian pop. Always, there are delicious melodies and delightfully inventive chordal arrangements supporting them. Each piece gives between one and four members of the 10-piece band a chance to solo, and their diverse styles complement each other beautifully. This is a rare chance to catch a well-traveled, finely honed jazz orchestra in concert.