There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Standards are usually the basis of modern big bands’ playlists. And saxophonist Russ Gershon’s 10-piece Either/Orchestra has played its share of classics, from Thelonious Monk’s “Brilliant Corners” (on the band’s debut, Dial “E”), to Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” (on the odds-and-ends collection, Across the Omniverse). But interspersed among the old chestnuts are takes on King Crimson’s prog-rock workout “Red” (on The Half-Life of Desire) and a cheeky version of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” (on The Brunt). On Either/Orchestra’s fantastic new CD, More Beautiful Than Death, the 15-year-old group again performs some cover tunes, though they are a little outside even the Orchestra’s unusually far reach: With the help of now-deceased Morphine frontman Mark Sandman, Gershon unearthed “Amiak Abet Abet,” “Musicawi Silt,” and “Feker Aydelmwey,” Ethiopian pop hits from the ’70s, and the Orchestra skillfully arranged them into the sort of densely layered grooves that were the trademark of Charles Mingus. Beautifully dovetailing into the Orchestra’s own Latin-tinged compositions, the three Ethiopian cuts are usually played in a suite in concert, along with two other works, “Wetetie Mare” and “Yezamed Yebaed.” Hear the Either/Orchestra play standards from around the world when the group performs with Ron Holloway at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the State Theatre, 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church. $15. (703) 237-0300. (Christopher Porter)