Two and a half years ago, the three leaders of Philly’s Fresh Cut Orchestra – Josh Lawrence on trumpet, Jason Fraticelli on bass and Anwar Marshall on drums – had never so much as jammed together. They were just three players from the local jazz scene who had reputations as versatile collaborators (we first saw Lawrence sitting in with Hennessey Bonfire at a World Cafe Live gig a few years back) when they were recruited by Lenny Seidman at The Painted Bride to work together on a night of music for the Old City arts venue’s 40th anniversary.
Shaun Brady told their story in City Paper earlier this year: as much as their beginnings were the result of essentially being thrown together, the trio’s chemistry clicked, and earlier this year the FCO (now a robust ten-piece) released their excellent debut LP, From the Vine, via local imprint Ropeadope Records.
For listeners who want to explore the local jazz scene but aren’t aficionados, this album serves as an incredible gateway. It’s undeniably jazz, but not like any jazz you’ve ever heard before, blending schooled chops with a progressive sensibility – progressive in the sense of pushing genre-boundaries with the use of electronic textures and ambient soundscapes, but also progressive in the riled-up, prog-rock sound you hear on moments like “Migration of the Spirit,” the penultimate part of the album’s centerpiece, The Mother’s Suite.
You’ll hear an incredible performance of that song in the band’s Key Studio Session, but you’ll also hear irresistible traditional moments like “Ola’s Bolero,” a cool and breezy Cuban jazz number led by a gentle bongo rhythm. “Indecision” has the feel of a late-night big band doing its last set before closing time, while the swing on “Fresh Cut Blue” is frenetic.
In addition to Lawrence, Fraticelli and Marshall, this FCO lineup featured Mike Cemprola on tenor and alto sax, Mark Allen on baritone sax, Brent White on trombone, Benjamin Karp on guitar and Francois Zayas (who we’ve also seen in Alo Brasil and West Philly Orchestra) on percussion. You’ll be able to see them in action this Saturday at the Center City Jazz Festival; they take the stage at MilkBoy at 6 p.m., and tickets and more information are available here. To get a taste of what they’ll sound like, stream their Key Studio Session below, or download the entire set at Soundcloud.
Center City Jazz Festival, fresh cut orchestra, Milkboy, The Key Studio Sessions