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Radium, the second release from this Boston-based mid-size ensemble, could serve as a virtual template for its albums in years to come. Two originals by leader Russ Gershon show his leanings toward an Ellingtonian sound combined with lessons learned growing up listening to the post-Ornette avant-garde. His "Hard to Know" is a lovely, bittersweet song that etches itself firmly in one's mind, evincing Gershon's knack for penning infectious melodies. But one of the chief trademarks of this band is the inspired cover version, and this album is no exception. Not only do they perform compositions as disparate as "Willow Weep for Me" (which gets taken on a long, wild ride) and "Odwalla," the great, beautiful dirge made famous by the Art Ensemble of Chicago (here clearly adapted from its performance on Bap-Tizum), but they even have the chutzpah to concoct the unholy merger of Monk's "Nutty" and "Ode to Billy Joe"! These guys certainly have little shame and you should be thankful for that. Either/Orchestra also has a tradition of showcasing fine soloists and herein one can appreciate the instrumental prowess of, among others, trumpeter Tom Halter and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring. Perhaps not up to the stellar level of their best releases such as The Half-Life of Desire, but a great deal of fun nonetheless.

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