A watchful calm; a spooky wheeze; a steady, dark stalk; strange birds with psychedelic tails squawking jungle alarm. Go: Organic Orchestra generates an atmosphere of adventure, and there’s no adventure without risk. Percussionist Adam Rudolph is the guide; he’s got a map, but it’s sketchy, and even he doesn’t know what will happen when he spontaneously signals his 20 or 50 players to team up this way or that on the nebulous chords he’s composed, or steers the whole mass into a quick rhythmic left turn with his congas, or points at some saxist or flutist for a solo flight. It’s just GO. And usually it’s great.
Organic Orchestra is a drama, a school, a community, a ritual. Like a church congregation, it’s different every night. For several years, musicians have joined in from all over the city and sometimes the world. Though communal music is the rule in Africa, where Rudolph has participated in it many times firsthand, it’s almost illegal in our land of technical solitude, and when you see it happen, the effect is like inhaling a prehistoric vapor of human essence — something fundamental but nearly forgotten.
This is a rare experience. Just as rare is a venue that can give the idea real substance, and Rudolph’s alliance with the Electric Lodge makes it possible for him to do 10 nights of two sets each, well worth attending repeatedly. His core includes Ralph Jones, David Philipson, Emily Hay and Sara Schoenbeck; you’d be surprised how many others will gather. They’ve got the skills, they’ve got the right attitude, and their spirit is catching.
Go: Organic Orchestra plays the Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice; Thurs.-Sun., May 25-28, & Wed.-Sun., May 31-June 4. (310) 306-1854 or www.metarecords.com.
Another core Organic tribesman is Bennie Maupin, but he’ll miss this Friday to be at Club Tropical for the third anniversary of Cryptonight and the release of his Penumbra on Cryptogramophone Records. If you haven’t followed Maupin’s rap sheet since his transgressions circa 1970 with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, mark this date in red.
Live and on record, the Maupin Ensemble exudes an elegance outside of time, almost outside of tradition. Percussionist Munyungo Jackson and drummer Michael Stephans breathe together so subtly, the notion of their “striking” anything rings false. Maupin’s woodwinds slither through the sand in nocturnal undulations. Darek Oles’ bass on Penumbra makes the whole thing shake like gelatin; his replacement here is the equally excellent Robert Hurst, who tends to emphasize an earthier texture. Calmness and mobility simmering under controlled pressure — delicious.
And if you’re reading this Thursday, you can catch Jeff Gauthier’s Goatette playing their airborne new One and the Same and adding four members to essay Mwandishi-era Hancock, of which Maupin was a key composer. That shit is wild.
The Bennie Maupin Ensemble plays Club Tropical, 8641 Washington Blvd., Culver City, on Fri., May 26; Goatette performs there the previous night.