Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica, once called "anything but straightforward" by the Washington Post, kicks off its Fall 2022 concerts in its story-driven global jazz quintet formation beginning with a concert at the Lily Pad in Cambridge, followed by a free concert at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, NH. The quintet—led by percussionist Brian "Mr. Ho" O'Neill—routes listeners through a whirlwind of sounds ranging from original compositions by O'Neill to unexpected adaptations of classical View more
Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, once called “anything but straightforward” by the Washington Post, kicks off its Fall 2022 concerts in its story-driven global jazz quintet formation beginning with a concert at the Lily Pad in Cambridge, followed by a free concert at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, NH. The quintet—led by percussionist Brian “Mr. Ho” O’Neill—routes listeners through a whirlwind of sounds ranging from original compositions by O’Neill to unexpected adaptations of classical works ranging from Tchaikovsky’s ballets to Gershwin piano preludes and Georgian chants (played on a vibraphone with six bows). AllAboutJazz once described the dreamy sounds in pictures, claiming “if John Zorn is an exotica Picasso, O’Neill is his Georges-Braque counterpart in cubism’s transposition to music.”
Since 2007, the Orchestrotica’s quintet formation has had few musical boundaries, grouping Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Gershwin, John Adams, and Gregorian chants into a melange of exotic chamber music spiced with flavors sourced from Asia, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Latin America. “I’m pretty excited to have the group back bringing creative music to curious listeners, without any screens or Zoom required!,” says O’Neill. The group’s blending of jazz, world music, and classical chamber music with a taste for escapism is partially influenced by O’Neill’s career as a diverse freelance percussionist, and his exposure to the mostly extinct genre from the 1950s known as exotica. While the Orchestrotica’s contemporary musical vocabulary is a departure from the bird whistles and frog sounds that made exotica a mid-century fad at one point, some listeners still draw a connection to the neatly packaged and bottled-up experiences made famous on countless LPs with fanciful covers.
“The band has been physically separated now for several years due to Covid and the shutdown of the touring market, and while it was fun bringing our Remotely Music Series to life during the heights of the pandemic, we know our fans value and prefer the live concert experience just as much as we do.” says O’Neill. “People always ask me what style of music the Orchestrotica plays and how we define it. I tell them that we’re here to ‘find an escape’ within the precision of composed music, the improvisation in jazz, and the many timbres afforded by various familiar and ethnic instruments.” The group is known for using storytelling to invite listeners into its unusual mix of global jazz and exotic chamber music, and it will be the quintet’s debut appearance at the Capitol Center in NH.
In addition to O’Neill, who fronts the ensemble on vibraphone and percussion, the quintet features the talents of Geni Skendo (bass flute, contrabass flute (in orange!), flute, shakuhachi), Tev Stevig (cümbüş, oud), Michael Harrist (bass), and Jeremy Smith (percussion). The group will perform unrecorded music and selections from two of it’s acclaimed Exotic for Modern Living series albums, Third River Rangoon (“Top 10 for 2011”-Huffington Post) and Where Here Meets There (“Wonderful!”-Jazz Weekly).
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