The Half-Life of Desire

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A lot of bands do covers. Some bands do oddball covers. But few and far between are the bands who dare to end an album with back to back to back covers of a Bing Crosby hit, a Miles Davis/Ellington medley, and Robert Fripp's "Red"! But on The Half-Life of Desire, Either/Orchestra's finest, most accomplished release, that's exactly what this Boston-based ensemble does. Russ Gershon leads the 11-piece group (including future demi-celeb John Medeski) through four originals as well, all strong, especially his own "Strange Meridian" and trombonist Curtis Hasselbring's "He Who Hesitates." Beautifully recorded by legendary engineer Rudy van Gelder, the band is extraordinarily tight and vibrant, showing none of the muddy quality that would sully some of their later work. "Temptation" is given a mock-serious treatment with a guest appearance of the deep-voiced Mark Sandman, while "Red," arranged by guitarist Dirac, evolves from its throbbing theme to a series of evocative ruminations before returning to its core with a vengeance. Perhaps the highlight of this set is "Circle in the Round/I Got It Bad" with its furious bass intro segueing into the billowing Davis melody as though skirting a thunderstorm, only to merge unexpectedly into Ellingtonia. Quite a journey, resulting in arguably the best of this unusual band's release. Very highly recommended.

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