Conduction is a little known but very interesting beast in jazz and outside musics, a rara avis that cropped up with Frank Zappa and a few other groups but found its most outrageous exemplar in Butch Morris (check out his 10-CD Testament: A Conduction Collection…but only if you don't mind having to scrape your brains back off the ceiling). Basically, the style is what it implies: a conductor, via baton and gestures, composes/improvises on the spot with a group of musical adepts. You hafta be pretty damned accomplished to engage in conduction in any manner because it requires not only adherence to the desires of the maestro but a cybernetic knack in finding your indexing and voicing among fellow musos, all doing the same thing moment by moment—in the case of Everyone Orchestra, that means nine of 'em right at your elbow.
Brooklyn Sessions is a mutant, but where Morris sets out to dismantle everything incorporate in the music-making process, Everyone Orchestra digs messing with the knobs and switches, taking the traditional and playing with tempo and the range of incorporability, subtly and not so subtly shifting several modalities within main structures, testing the known peripheries rather than launching for Saturn, and so on. Bass Blanket demonstrates this beautifully, writhing all over the place but in perfect synchrony with its fundamental structure, a Laocoön of understated but striking sets of changes.
Funk Explosion, on the other hand, blends sassy jazz with wah'ed searing rock guitar lines from Al Schnier in order to obtain the sort of vibe the 70s fusioneers (Keef Hartley, Embryo, Gil Evans, etc.) were creating after Miles got the ball rolling. Everyone Orchestra is basically the brainchild of conductionist Matt Butler, whose methods even extend to old Bonzo Dog Band placard waving, and the roster of players is ever in ferment, often including well known sit-ins from groups like String Cheese Incident, Phish, Grateful Dead, the Flecktones, and other luminaries. During performance, Butler might even choose to conduct the audience in its responses as a part of the total environment, so if you catch these cats live, get ready for a little Living Theater. The most interesting aspect of Brooklyn Sessions is the simultaneous presence of the familiar and the unexpected. Thus, when the band falls into a soul-filled intro followed by a krautische passage at the outset of Take Off Your Clothes, you're hardly surprised to find Lonnie Liston Smith alongside the Funkadelics alongside Neu. In the Great Music Melting Pot Era, Everyone Orchestra has a definite place.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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