Either/Orchestra Reviewed in Boston Globe

Either/Orchestra Celebrates Past and Present

By Bill Beuttler Globe Correspondent 


The Either/Orchestra performed during its 30th anniversary concert Friday at Johnny D’s.

Somerville — Russ Gershon’s 10-piece Either/Orchestra, joined in spots by former band members Jerome Deupree and Dan Fox, celebrated its 30th anniversary at Johnny D’s on Friday with two spirited sets of music from past and forthcoming albums, displaying the broad, good-humored mix of jazz modernism, Latin accents, and Ethiopian exoticism that have defined the locally based ensemble through the years.

That Gershon has kept some version of the group together so long — five of the 10 current members have been aboard for 17 years or longer, with trumpeter Tom Halter there from the beginning and saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase joining two years later — must owe partly to his generosity as a leader. Everyone soloed as the night progressed, Gershon himself just twice and Kohlhase, alto saxophonist Mark Zaleski and trumpeter Dan Rosenthal (newish band members at three and nine years’ service, respectively) a little more than that.

Five Gershon compositions were featured, and several of his arrangements, but he also found room for tunes by former band members Curtis Hasselbring (“He Who Hesitates”) and Bob Nieske (“Fast Edd”), jazz greats Rahsaan Roland Kirk (“Lady’s Blues”) and Horace Silver (“Ecaroh”), and a handful of pieces from his beloved Ethiopia, including the three-movement “Ethiopian Suite.”

Gershon also enjoyed cracking wise during song announcements. When Kohlhase switched from baritone to alto sax for “The Half-Life of Desire,” Gershon joked he was “trying to give [Kohlhase’s] rapidly aging spine a break.” It turned out to be a highlight, Kohlhase swapping the growliness of his bari for a balladic sweetness redolent of Johnny Hodges. Gershon also claimed, tongue-in-cheek, that his never recorded “Holiday Fallout,” featuring Joel Yennior on trombone, was meant to evoke “a little bit of that queasy holiday feeling.”

The newer and/or less familiar stuff came in the second set, building toward the set-closing “Ethiopian Suite,” which Gershon said the band hadn’t played in five years, and the leader’s soprano sax solo on “Feker Aydelemwey,” which included a brief audience clap-along toward the finish.

“I’d also like to thank the 50-some band members we’ve had over the years,” Gershon said as he wrapped up naming Friday’s contingent. John Medeski, Matt Wilson, and Miguel Zenón are three who slipped the Either/Orchestra orbit and achieved renown elsewhere. Gershon and his current guys aren’t as well-known beyond Boston, but as a group they looked comparably capable at Johnny D’s.

Bill Beuttler can be reached at bill@billbeuttler.com.

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Joel Celebrates Either/Orchestra’s 30th Anniversary

Either/Orchestra Celebrates Their 30th Anniversary at Johnny D’s in Somerville, Dec. 18 


The Either/Orchestra circa 2010. Joel (pictured, center rear) has been an active member of the Either/Orchestra since 1998.

By Matt Micucci, Jazziz Magazine

2015 marks the 30th anniversary of Either/Orchestra. The band will be celebrating the occasion with a performance at Johnny D’s in Somerville MA on Friday December 18.

Either/Orchestra is a ten piece jazz ensemble, led by saxophonist Russ Gershon, who founded the band in Cambridge, Massachussets in 1985.

Gershon has stated that his initial intention was simply born out of wanting to hear great musicians realize his vision of the large jazz ensemble, influenced by Duke Ellington, Gil Evans, Charles Mingus and Sun Ra. Yet the ensuing decades unfurled an adventure in swing, bebop, avant-garde, Latin and Ethiopian jazz, producing Grammy nominated arrangements, perennial placement in critics’ polls and appearances on the most prestigious stages of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, Paris, Rome and beyond.

The band is characterized by a heavier and more orchestrated sound than that of a smaller jazz combo, but remains more streamlined and improvisation-oriented than most big bands.

Either/Orchestra quickly developed a reputation for presenting adventurous music in an entertaining package, delighting and challenging club, colleges and festival audiences in small towns and big cities, as well as recording a string of critically acclaimed albums, and Grierson’s ear for talent made the band a formative showcase for such names as John Medeski, Miguel Zenon and Matt Wilson, who would go on to have prominent and celebrated careers on the jazz scene.

On December 18, Russ Gershon, will be joined by alumni guests for a romp through material from their eleven albums, featuring the thrilling jazz, Latin and Ethiopian sounds that have made them unique through a generation of jazz history.

In addition, the Either/Orchestra will be releasing two albums in the spring of 2016, The Collected Unconscious on Accurate Records and The Music of Nerses Nalbandian on Ethiopiques, Buda Musique.

– See more at: https://www.jazziz.com/eitherorchestra-celebrate-their-30th-at-johnny-ds-in-somerville-dec-18/#sthash.tZYElgFD.dpuf

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Joel Named a “Rising Star” on Trombone, 2014 Downbeat Magazine Critic’s Poll

imagesFor the second consecutive year, Joel was named a “Rising Star” on Trombone in the August 2014 Downbeat Magazine Critic’s Poll.

Other trombonists named as “Rising Stars” include Vincent Gardner, Mashall Gilkes, Michael Dease, and Alan Ferber (among others).

Downbeat Critics Polls Results Rising Star 2014The Either/Orchestra also received mention in the “Big Band” (Established Talent) Category. Joel has been a member of the Either/Orchestra since 1998. Current Either/Orchestra member Charlie Kohlhase (baritone sax) also received a nomination to the 2014 Downbeat Critic’s List, as well as former members Miguel Zenon (alto sax/arranger), Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), and Haley Niswanger (alto sax).

To view the complete 2014 list, please click here or download the attached PDF: Downbeat Critics Poll Rising Star Trombone 2014

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Article Published in Massachusetts Music News – “Fostering Listening Skills in the Digital Era”

Mass Music News Cover June 2014Joel’s article entitled, “Fostering Listening Skills in the Digital Era,” was published in the summer issue of the Massachusetts Music News.

The article outlines some of the benefits the internet offers in terms of the wide accessibility of music online, and examines the implications of the internet’s delivery of recorded music on the development of essential listening skills.

The full magazine can be accessed online by clicking here (Joel’s article begins on page 37).

The Massachusetts Music News is a quarterly publication produced by the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA).

Joel currently serves as the editor of the “Contemporary Music” column for the magazine.


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Joel Featured on New CD by Dave Fabris

Joel is featured on a recent release by New York-based guitarist and composer, Dave Fabris called “Lettuce Prey.” Joel performs alongside members of the Atlantic Brass in some adventurous re-inventions of orchestral pieces by Prokoviev, Ives and Khatchaturian. The recording also features Ran Blake on piano and organ.

LettucePrey_Cover.9192e0346da36e929782f02837d9cb3a49Lettuce Prey (Great Winds/Musea 3169) is music that is supported equally by the three legs of Rock, Jazz and Classical. It has the guts and glory of rock heroes like Jimi Hendrix (whose tune, Angel, is featured as a guitar solo on this CD). It possesses the surprise and intrigue of Jazz improvisation (like Ornette Coleman’s Sadness – presented here in a jazz quintet format). Lastly, it exudes the intricacy and depth of contemporary Classical music – Ives, Prokofiev, and Khatchaturian are among the composers presented here. But the intent is for the styles to coalesce…that the heavy guitar bass and drum treatment of Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 2, for example, maintains the sublimation of the original while making the listener pump their fist in the air!

Hear some samples of the CD.  See more info and purchase a copy.

Also available in download version through iTunes and amazon.

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