Time travelers

The Either/Orchestra go to Groovy World, plus Ameranouche and Shelley Neill dig their Gypsy souls
By JON GARELICK  |  July 19, 2010

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SWINGING BACHELOR PAD: The Either/Orchestra video shoot conjured Hullabaloo and Sweet Charity.

Trumpeter Tom Halter is wearing one of his snazzy mariachi outfits (black vest and pants with white embroidery). Russ Gershon is retouching his own make-up to get some of the green out (“I don’t look so much like a corpse now”). Alto-saxophonist Godwin Louis has changed into a dashiki and kufi. And on the Lily Pad floor sits Nate Grigos in pimped-out floppy tiger-striped orange cap, manipulating rabbit-ear antennae and staring up at five black-and-white video monitors as fog rises around him.

The occasion is the filming of a video for the Either/Orchestra’s “The (One of a Kind) Shimmy,” which will be the first track on their new album, Mood Music for Time Travellers (Accurate), due August 10. The scenario for the video, as E/O honcho Gershon explains, is that the band are trapped inside the black-and-white Boring World captured on the monitors — until a Peter Pan–like emissary (played by E/O saxophonist Hailey Niswanger) enters the scene, transporting them to the full-color ’70s party vibe of Groovy World. The band eventually ascend and disappear into outer space.

Gershon recruited friends and interested parties on Facebook and Craigslist. At the Lily Pad, director David Fisher is conferring with his small crew, and Maxine Alchek is rehearsing choreography based on viewings of Hullabaloo and Sweet Charity with five female dancers in a variety of tube dresses and Afros. Over the course of a couple of hours, Fisher shoots “extras” in a party scene with Grigos (whom Gershon met when he played Grigos’s wedding last year) as they watch the “trapped” and miserable version of the Either/Orchestra on those monitors and “The (One of a Kind) Shimmy” plays in the background.

It should be said that the name of the tune comes from a reference in this column to a performance by Ethiopian singer Hana Shenkute with the band in 2006. But this song has nothing to do with the E/O’s Ethiopique jazz. In fact, with its rolling piano figures and riffing horns, it’s a classic jazz boogaloo — in “the ‘Watermelon Man’ family,” as Gershon explains. “I wanted a melody people would know before it even happened.”

Look for the E/O’s CD-release party at the Regattabar September 11.

With his blazing speed, toothy articulation, and torrential flights of invention, Django Reinhardt took jazz guitar to a new level of artistry that has arguably influenced every guitarist since. But what about his music? The “Gypsy jazz” of the earlier part of his career combined elements of the folkloric Gypsy tradition of Europe with American “hot music” (Louis Armstrong). That style these days manifests itself in a million bands based on his Quintette du Hot Club de France — acoustic lead and rhythm guitars, maybe a violin in homage to the Quintette’s genius fiddler Stéphane Grappelli, and bass. It’s beautiful, driving music, but those who play le jazz hot à la Quintette are a hermetic coterie. You can hear them all over festivals in Quebec City and Montreal, and there have been traveling revues of Django music. But it’s its own thing.

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  Topics: Jazz , regattabar, regattabar, Either/Orchestra,  More more >
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