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Josh Green & The Cyborg Orchestra — Telepathy & Bop
((Not on label) no#, 2016, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-03-31

Telepathy & Bop Cover art

No, the musicians are not machines. Their parts are not programmed. They are in fact real musicians playing real instruments together. The combination of instruments is a bit unusual, sort of a cross between a jazz big band, a chamber orchestra, and a few quirky touches like accordion. So you have five woodwind players (covering flute, piccolo, clarinet, bass clarinet, oboe, alto sax, tenor sax, and EWI), four brass (two each of trumpet and trombone), a small string section (a standard quartet plus a few extra violas and cellos), and a rhythm section (piano, bass, drums, guitar, and accordion). Green composes and conducts, and his music has a wide-ranging blend of playfulness and seriousness that is instantly appealing. He handles the textures and sounds available from the ensemble masterfully, covering most of the available possibilities from very sparse sections to sweeping full-orchestra swells. Starting with “Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump” (whatever that means) we have a lively latin-inflected bass and piano line punctuated by various groups of instruments in tricky rhythmic accents, having almost the flavor of John Hollenbeck interpreting a Raymond Scott piece. Guitarist Sungwon Kim gets a wigged-out solo turn that adds elements of modern avant-jazz, and there’s also an outstanding flute solo (not sure which player it is). There’s a section featuring sectional arpeggios that injects a bit of Philip Glass into the piece, and a splash of chaos near the end with honks and blasts and glissandos. All around, it is ten and a half minutes of pure musical joy. “The Lauer Faceplant” carries on with a great bass clarinet line, tremolos from the strings, and echoing saxophone backed by eerie accordion. All of the nine tracks contain strokes of brilliance, whether it is a great solo from one of the players, a particularly interesting bit of ensemble work featuring an unexpected combination of instruments, or just plain smile-inducing melodic twists. Telepathy & Bop is without doubt the finest recording for a large ensemble that I’ve heard in years, and in sheer enjoyment Green’s arrangements rank with those of master innovators like Toshiko Akiyoshi, Gil Evans, Thad Jones, and so on. Coming from the avant and progressive side, fans of jazz on Cuneiform should give this a listen, and anyone who thinks there’s nothing new in the world of big band jazz is in for a treat.

Filed under: New releases, 2016 releases

Related artist(s): Joshua Green (Cyborg Orchestra)

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