Either/Orchestra Handles All Tough Turns of Jazz Road
“The lowest time was in '97 when I disbanded the group for eight or nine months and really gave hard thought to whether I was going to put it back together. In the year or so before that, the chemistry wasn’t right with the band. It just seemed like it wasn’t moving forward in the right way. It is a labor of love and a lot of hard work. If you’re not getting the results, getting the right sound in the music, and in the interaction of the players on and off the bandstand, it becomes a little like, ‘Why are we doing this?’ So I was sort of feeling that. My son was born in late '96 and I was sort of overwhelmed with that.
“That was the low point. Coming out of that, I retooled with only four of the same people. I auditioned some people and got some people I’d been wanting to have for a while. Since then, the creativity and the chemistry have been great. It’s been great. It’s almost like there was the band before and the band after. Like Woody Herman’s First Herd and Second Herd,” he says with a chuckle. And the band has persevered, gaining fans and acclaim along the way.
It just needs more gigs, he acknowledges.
“If we had another 100 gigs per year and I didn’t have to do the booking, I’d be happy as a clam,” he laughs. “I’ve been so lucky. I’ve met so many great musicians and great guys, working for really short bread for how much effort they put in. It’s not time. I don’t ask for their time, just to rehearse and play. I do the backstage stuff. But I’ve gotten such incredible commitment out of people, I just wish there was a way I could pay them what they deserve. Sometimes they get paid well. Sometimes they don’t. It would be nice to pay them what they deserve for the incredible amount of talent that they bring to this music.”
“It’s been mostly great times. I think back to the early days of just discovering how to make a big noise with a bunch of people. The days when we were really starting to hit our stride when John Medeski was playing with us, a great guy and great musician. The days we started touring and what a gas that was and how much it did for the music. Great recording sessions. And of course there are a million hilarious and ridiculous things that happen when you’re traveling, especially with 10 people. You know how it is when you’re traveling with one or two people just for laughs. Try taking 10 people around, following an itinerary and doing some kind of organized activities, and then all hanging out and doing gigs. Pure arithmetic tells you a lot of ridiculous shit is going to happen, and that’s a big enough community of people where stories take on a life of their own within a half an hour. Anything good that happens is already being retold, making the rounds in the group. So there’s this mythology that gets generated. When I see old friends who are no longer in the band – people like Medeski or Matt Wilson – we reminisce about this stuff. It’s just hilarious. It’s a whole scrapbook of fun great things that happen, that in a way don’t have anything to do with music, but they’re a byproduct of spending all that time together.”
With many bands having trouble getting gigs, Gershon knows it’s not always going to be easy. But he believes in the band and its philosophy, and hopes that the appreciative audiences will grow.
“We’re swimming against the tide. We’re in a world where one or two people can simulate the sound of a large ensemble on a recording. Two or three people in a band can make a big sound. It’s not like 50 years ago or 60 years ago when to get a big sound you needed 15 people. The only reason you have 10 people together now is because there are certain subtleties and certain kinds of things. But it’s not essential for groups to have that many people. In a way we’re not economically positioned in a very smart way. That’s just reality and I understand that.”
Nonetheless, the Either/Orchestra has a remarkable track record documented by outstanding recordings. It’s time for the critical acclaim and audience acclaim to meet and explode.
Visit the Either/Orchestra on the web at www.either-orchestra.org .