The Naked Orchestra

The Dragon's Den

February 27, 2004

The dance floor was small and constrictive, especially when the band spilled onto it when the stage couldn't hold the players. Somehow, fifteen musicians from The Naked Orchestra packed themselves onto the Dragon's Den stage and dance floor Friday night, music stands and all.

New Orleans musicians are known for their laissez-faire and freewheeling attitudes, but on this night the same jokers were acting professional, maybe even respectful. Conductor Dr. Jimbo Walsh got a little aggravated trying to silence the bunch between songs. Still, judging by their impossibly prompt appearance(11 p.m. sharp) and the solid execution of the songs, it seemed like everyone was there because they loved the music. What’s not to like?

The band’s spirit walked with the Sun Ra Arkestra, but they weren't as consistently wacked out. They got cacophonous, but they were just as likely to be dreamy, throw in a flute solo, or incorporate a Latin beat or klezmer time signature(The long list of the players is at the bottom of this page).

The music was a stew: joyful or lamenting, off-kilter or melodic, slithering or epic. The songs were original compositions written by Walsh or Freilich. It was a testament to Walsh and their musicianship that the band sounded fresh, since the last time they played together was more than six months ago.

In fact, the MVP of the night was drummer Doug Garrison, who was called in to replace illmatic Dave Sobel, who had his set already onstage. I regarded Garrison as a better than average drummer before last night, but after he added such personality and life to the songs, I bow to him. Garrison made it seem like he knew the songs by heart, not that he was playing without a net(for drummers, that’s reading sheet music).

Here’s a diagram of their second song, which Freilich described as “HAL meets the problem with the GDP:” Ozaki laid out a nice groove alone, followed by drums and then pulsating horn notes. The other horns played a more accessible melody on top. This gave the music a ‘20’s Chicago detective feel, like the soundtrack to a search for justice. An impressive solo by Coogan was accompanied by a breakdown of nothing but horns crying. Then, the band hit a noise crescendo, followed by a serene bassoon and flute interlude, only to go back into the detective piece.

After the song, people were rejoicing over an upcoming bassoon solo. Really, how many times do you get to hear a bassoon solo?

The only criticism I have of this song and their concert as a whole was that the music dragged at points. The melodies needed to be catchier, or there needed to be more stops and gos to break up the monotony.

The band played well, and they were well-received with much applause from a half-full room. Hopefully, they’ll perform again before the next six months pass by.

The Naked Orchestra:
Dr. Jimbo Walsh—conductor/writer
Jonathan Freilich—guitar/writer
Jeff Albert—trombone
Steve Bertram—bassoon
Joe Cabral—saxophone
Brian Coogan—synthesizer
Mike Fulton—trumpet
Doug Garrison—drums
Tim Green—bass saxophone
Hart McNee-flute
Doug Miller—saxophone
Sartoro Ohashi—trumpet
Nobu Ozaki—stand-up bass
Janna Saslow—flute and picolo
Rob Wagner—saxophone

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