Review & Photos | The Everyone Orchestra | New York
Words By: Chadbyrne Dickens
The Everyone Orchestra :: 11.8.13 :: B.B. King’s Blues Club :: New York, NY
Check out Chadbyrne’s full review after Suzy’s gallery!
This is not your Grandfather’s Orchestra. With an assemblage of a colorful cast of talented musicians in tow, improvisational conductor Matt Butler led a troupe called the Everyone Orchestra that delivered a powerful performance over two sets that satiated the unexpected palette of legions of jam band aficionados as part of a near sold-out performance at New York City’s BB King’s venue in bustling Times Square this past Friday night.
With almost no rehearsal and no predetermined set list, the Everyone Orchestra is distinctly different than your neighborhood symphony or Philharmonic, it is an intensely satisfying, original and unforgettable experience for jam fans. EO not only takes participants from the ranks of the greatest bands in the land but often the leaders of those groups themselves. It is best emblematic of the cult classic, “Memphis Soul Stew” by King Curtis where a musical stew is concocted by including different instrumental ingredients.
Butler, who hails from Oregon, has inducted a veritable who’s who of jam gods into the EO ranks over the years including luminaries such as Jon Fishman, Jason Hann of SCI, Bridget Law of Elephant Revival, Steve Kimock, Jans Ingber of the Motet, Ryan Montbleau, Reed Mathis of Tea Leaf Green, Zach Gill and Lebo from ALO, Todd Stoops of Kung Fu and jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan. The utilitarian approach amongst participants fosters cohesion between them and encourages exploration and expansion of minds and sounds. Each has the freedom to explore a sound perhaps different in nuance and structure than what one is known for playing in their home bands. Each performer expresses a different experience with Everyone Orchestra. Members often bond through the unusual foray into musical improvisation and Butler is known to bring all together for a pre-show meal.
Butler is like a chef with ingredients and an unknown final product. The jam often starts with one person, as it did once with Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth on this night, and his “Jam A” will be met by other performers around him, adding fills with a “Jam B” and the result is a meshing of monumental magnitude. Matt subtlety pushes participants into a different comfort zone than is customary to enhance creativity and keep the proceedings fresh. Butler states, “It’s all about intuition…there’s a balance between needing them to feel free to do something and surprise us…me being ready to carve dynamics and call a different solo…” Some lineups have musicians coming back for more -because they are really into the concept.
Praise for Butler and his vision comes from a vast array of credible sources. Carbone lauded, “Performing with the EO is at once one of the most challenging and satisfying musical experiences I have had. Each time is as different as a fingerprint and totally exhilarating.” Talented TAB trombonist Natalie Cressman declared, “In the course of an Everyone Orchestra set, you get to discover other artist’s musical personalities and collaborate with them in the moment. There’s really nothing like having that fearlessness to make music in front of a bunch of people with nothing pre-planned or rehearsed”, and John Kadlecik stated, “I have only played a handful of shows with EO, but it’s been a blast every time, I particularly enjoy hearing what comes out of my subconscious mind when playing with new people for the first time. And, I really dig the mini-festival type audience that EO attracts, with fans from different groups mingling in an intimate club or theater environment.”
Naturally, there are times when a jam doesn’t effectively evolve or a suitable platform for improvisation materialize. However, the majority attain a cohesive pinnacle one would be hard to predict could ever be reached. After 12 years in existence, EO inherently still evolves over time and one can expect to be tantalized by the certainly of hearing something for the very first time. Like lighting in a bottle, the magic is captured in the moment and inspires the highest level of fan-FOMO (“fear of missing out.”) Those who missed this particular night’s offering, indeed missed out. The experienced players played off each other in professional fashion. Surprisingly, Butler announced a cover song, “After Midnight,” and the band dynamically delivered a more layered and fuller sounding piece through extensive development than the original with apparent effortlessness to the lay person viewing it.
On this star-studded night, the band consisted of Matt Butler (conductor), Natalie Cressman (trombone/TAB), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet/TAB), John Kadlecik (guitar/Furthur), Tim Carbone (fiddle/Railroad Earth), John Morgan Kimock (drums/Steve Kimock Band), Joel Cummins (keys/Umphrey’s McGee), Al Schnier (guitar/Moe.), Katy Gaughan (percussion) and Kai Eckhardt (bass/Garaj Mahal). This outfit takes direction from a mostly silent Butler, who conducts through hand signals and a dry erase board that inspires through utilization of key words like “Scream.” The musicians looked calm and collected yet were clearly challenged through the impetus of trying to play well with their brethren. After 2 a.m., Butler is still as enthusiastic as a school boy, perhaps because he knows the blessed situation he has been placed in. There are different levels of jam improvisation, with each one topping the next. The band resonates so well with mesmerized fans in attendance because they take direction like a “Choose Your Own adventure,” where one enjoys the ride while knowing there will be a surprise crescendo and eargasmic jam pay off.
Butler, on the board of the Rex Foundation, has raised more than $100,000 for non-profit causes across the country. EO has found success at numerous festivals in the past including All Good and moe.down and has toured coast to coast from Colorado to an annual voyage on Jam Cruise. Matt should be commended for releasing the ambitious studio effort, The Brooklyn Sessions, in 2012. Although it has an avid cult-following, naturally it can’t effectively capture the magic of a live performance. Knowing he is fortunate to find so many talented musicians willing to join his fold, the versatile Bobby McFerrin is one he respects and he’d like to enlist in the immediate future.
Everyone Orchestra is one of the best kept secrets in music. If one jives to the jam band sphere, watching a group overcome a challenge successfully, or simply like living on the edge where everything is not laid out in certainty, one would love the adventure Everyone Orchestra brings. The stellar sounds of this stew are best left mixed with Butler in charge of the stirring.
JamBase | The Answer is Yes
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