The Either/Orchestra turns 25 on December 17, 2010!


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For a quarter century, the Massachusetts-based ten-piece E/O has been exploring the borders of jazz, redefining what it means to be a “big band," expanding the palette of the jazz combo and building bridges between yesterday's jazz and tomorrow's.

Founder/leader Russ Gershon's background and sensibility intertwine jazz with decades of American popular music; the group's travels and collaborations traverse jazz and Ethiopian music; its international lineup creates a unique, organic pan-American Latin jazz sound. The group has evolved through many incarnations and first exposed to the public such future jazz luminaries as Miguel Zenon, John Medeski, Matt Wilson, Josh Roseman, Jaleel Shaw, Andrew D'Angleo, Mike Rivard and Curtis Hasselbring.

Early in its career, in the 1980s and 90s, facing long odds against performing regularly with such a large band, the E/O adopted a grass roots approach to touring, launching itself on long van tours to bring its cutting-edge concept to small towns and big cities all over the US. Later, as opportunities grew, came visits to festivals and concert halls in nine countries of Europe, Russia, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Along the way, the group has released a series of critically acclaimed albums, including the Grammy-nominated Calculus of Pleasure (1992) and 2005's spectacularly well-received Ethiopiques 20: Live in Addis. Over the past decade the E/O has also become perhaps the world's most prominent non-Ethiopian exponent of Ethiopian music, collaborating with the top musicians of Ethiopia's golden era, the 1960's and 70s:

Mulatu Astatke (including anchoring Mulatu's recent Mulatu Steps Ahead CD), Mahmoud Ahmed, Getachew Mekurya and others. Travelling across decades, continents and genres, the method remains: take the band on a trip—and take the audience for a ride. Unlike many large ensembles, the E/O is very much a band, with steady membership and collective commitment. The reality of the entertainment business has made working bands scarce and precarious, yet E/O members average over ten years of tenure. The richness of the collaboration fills their music with trust, depth and a subtle kind of innovation. Over the years the band's diversity has grown; the current members' ages range from 20 to 56, and they hail from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and around the US.

Highlights of the Anniversary Season (more to come!):

  • June: Russ Gershon & the Either/Orchestra are awarded a Chamber Music America “Jazz New Works and Ensemble Development" grant
  • August 10: Mood Music for Time Travellers available in stores and online
  • August: song video for “The (one of a kind) “Shimmy" will debut at thephoenix.com
  • September 4: The Chicago Jazz Festival, with special guests Getachew Mekurya and Teshome Mitiku
  • September 11: CD release party at the Regattabar in Cambridge MA
  • October [exact date TBA]: CD release party in NYC and other locations
  • December 17: Anniversary celebration, featuring alumni and guests, Boston area venue TBA
  • March 25, 2011: a concert with Ethiopian superstar Mahmoud Ahmed at Amherst College
  • May 2011: Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa: music of Armenian maestro Nerses Nalbandian
  • Spring 2011: Live album to be released

Personnel: Tom Halter, Dan Rosenthal: trumpets; Joel Yennior: trombone; Hailey Niswanger: alto sax, flute; Russ Gershon: tenor, soprano sax; Charlie Kohlhase: baritone sax; Rafael Alcala: piano, keys; Rick McLaughlin: bass; Pablo Bencid: drums; Vicente Lebron: congas, percussion.

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