Fresh Cut Orchestra ‘From The Vine’ (Ropeadope) 3/5

fresh-cut-orchestraPhiladelphia based large ensemble Fresh Cut Orchestra (FCO) is a young 10 piece band that draws on many different musical genres and influences to create its own unique sound. With three band leaders, trumpeter Josh Lawrence, bassist Jason Fraticelli and drummer Anwar Marshall, it is perhaps no surprise that “From The Vine” encompasses such a wide musical spectrum. This album well and truly mixes things up, from big band swinging jazz to electronica to funk to rock to ambient and back again. For a debut album it’s a brave and noteworthy choice and I applaud the band’s efforts and confidence in producing their first release with such intent. For this listener, there are times when this approach works well here, but there are times when it doesn’t.

The core of the album is the ambitious “The Mothers’ Suite” which is made up of six movements. The inspiration for this came from the death of a family member, shortly followed by a birth into the same family. These experiences had a profound effect and were a strong influence on the writing for this album. Two further tracks are included, “Uptown Romance” and “Sanguine”, both fitting in well to the tone of the overall session. I very much like the way the band are confident enough to take chances, sometimes we hear the full-on ten-piece in all its glory, whilst at other times the music is stripped right back to a trio or quartet setting, and even a stunning bass solo piece as performed by Fraticelli. Whilst much of the album works well, criss-crossing its way through well written, well performed music, I do feel that in places it is as if two different bands have turned up to play together. The electronica/keys/ambient sounds performed here stand up very well in isolation, but don’t always integrate that well into the rest of the band or structure of the composition. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh, but it sounds like the studio only had one recording suite available so two different bands came together to see what they could achieve. The many varying musical styles and rhythms work well together and for the most part the writing is strong and inventive. My only gripe here is that on occasion a tune starts with a good solid riff but doesn’t actually develop into anything beyond its initial theme. Saxophonists Mark Allen and Mike Cemprola produce some great performances, along with Josh Lawrence on trumpet and flugelhorn and Brent White on trombone. I also particularly enjoyed the synergy provided by guitarists Matt Davis and Tim Conley, percussionist Francois Zayas and pianist Brian Marsella. Together with bassist Fraticelli they succeed in creating some lovely percussive based grooves that hold much of the music together.

“From The Vine” is filled with some great ideas and on this evidence FCO are a band to look out for in the future. If they can hone their writing skills into a slightly more musically focussed effort, where the different styles are brought together in a sharper, more cohesive way, the possibilities are limitless.

Mike Gates