In the same way a chef de cuisine runs a kitchen, percussionist Brian O'Neill leads a team of five musical creators who deftly collaborate on instruments foreign and domestic to form modernist delicacies for hungry, curious listeners. From the high arts of jazz and chamber music to adaptations of mid-century exotica and pop art, the quintet version of Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica renders O'Neill's original compositions and curious adaptions of Bach, Gershwin, Shostakovich and John Adams into cinematic, layered music for armchair travelers ready to journey off road.
“If John Zorn is an exotica Picasso, O'Neill is his Georges-Braque counterpart in cubism's transposition to music.”—AllAboutJazz
While the quintet eschews most of the musical forms, rhythms, and styles of the 1950s exotica sound that inspired O'Neill, it fully embraces the unique genre's love of escapism, whether through deliberate, out-of-context use of global sounds or through jazz improvisation that doesn't swing and deliberately imitates the rhythm of a skipping record. On the listener's plate might be equal parts scratch and sniff, bongos with a fugue, and a cat fight at a piano recital. On the stage, the ensemble skillfully negotiates detailed compositions and arrangements of classical works while relying on listening and instinct to drive passionate improvisation.
“No other band on the planet sounds anything remotely like Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica”—Lucid Culture
The sound of the Orchestrotica's quintet also exists in two albums that help form the larger Exotica for Modern Living Series, which launched in 2010 with the group's big band ensemble performing its transcriptions of the lost music of Esquivel. In June 2011, the quintet released Third River Rangoon, its first interpretation of exotica as a mélange of jazz, classical, and world music. This sound matured with the band's sophomore recording, Where Here Meets There (2013), a dichotomous album that introduced even more adventuresome original music on its A-side (“Music from Here”) and the group's most sophisticated adaptations to date on its B-side (“Music from There”), the latter including its popular arrangements of Gershwin's three “Piano Preludes.” The series has also been lauded for its unique mid-century modern-inspired artwork, and audiophile-grade production quality.
In addition to O'Neill's vibraphone and hand percussion, the quintet features Geni Skendo's bass flute, flute, and shakuhachi; the highly stylized classical/jazz bassist Brad Barrett; Tev Stevig on the rare trio of oud, tanbur, and resonator guitar; and Jeremy Smith who referees the ensemble's interactions and improvisations using a bounty of percussion from marching machines to Arabic frame drums. All the musicians are teaching artists, and the ensemble provides educational programs at the primary school, high school, and collegiate levels.
Brian O'Neill (vibes, percussion, compositions, arranging)
Geni Skendo (flute, bass flute, shakuhachi)
Brad Barrett (bass)
Jeremy Smith (percussion)
Tev Stevig: (oud, tanbur, resonator guitar)
I recommend this ensemble on behalf of the Montreal Jazz Festival. We and our massive crowds loved both of their shows, and the big band was very easy to work with despite their large size. JazzIz loved their performance's “incredible precision and passion,” and Michael Bourne personally told me he
loved it as well.
Montreal Jazz Festival
“Those in our audience who didn't know what to expect were pleasantly surprised. My favorite characteristic of the concert was the variety of moods and colors created by the Orchestrotica's unique instrumentation, and those in the audience who knew what to expect seemed very happy as well.“
Lied Center of Kansas
Brian's work to transcribe the lost arrangements of Esquivel by hand is nothing short of incredible. Their concert at our festival was fantastic, and I will keep recommending this wonderful project to my peers!
Mexico Now Festival NYC
The Orchestrotica's quintet was fantastic. It was great to see such a good turn out, and hope?they'll be back some time.?
Alvas Showroom Los Angeles, CA
We heard great things from the crowd and would be happy to have Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica back!
Doc's Lab San Francisco