A baby's vocalizing doesn't usually enhance a musical performance, but on this night one baby nailed the vibe. The infant figured out the event's communal philosophy -- 17 musicians responding to conductor Adam Rudolph's gestures and one another's improvisational interactions. So the baby made it 18, and Rudolph levied no fines.
Mainly a world-music hand drummer (with a background ranging from Don Cherry to African marination to Yusef Lateef partnership), Rudolph did not frown when a preponderance of drummers and percussionists responded to his yearly L.A. roundup of Go: Organic Orchestra, a concept he had relocated to the East Coast a decade ago. On this middle night of three, the ensemble's focused energy elevated the house.
Rudolph delegated central kindling and conflagration roles to Organic's best-known enlistee, Miles/Herbie windman Bennie Maupin, who laid down meditative bass clarinet and fired up leaping soprano sax. The superskilled multi-flute team of Emily Hay and Ellen Burr lavished an amazing array of harmonic textures, while one Hay solo pulled off an unexpected combination of jungle and Igor. Wizened Thomas Stones pierced the veil with a charged piccolo flight. In the absence of alto and tenor saxes, Pablo Colagero, Charles Sharp and Gustavo Bulgach sensitively filled the midrange soul gap with their rack of clarinets. Ronit Kirchman blasted India-influenced filigrees through her violin's raft of electronic effects. A striking contrast: Ringing vibraphonist David Johnson laid down his mallets and tore into a powerhouse rip on blues harmonica.
It was harder to source the Organic's complex, fluctuating groove -- a compliment to the intuitive teamwork of drummers and percussionists Dexter Story, Andres Renteria, Edgar Modesto and Allakoi Peete. The wrists and fingertips of Randy Gloss, though, once again made an impossible demonstration of what a lone tambourine can do, while percussion auxiliary Carlos Niño and electroman Jesse Peterson raised up clouds of essential stardust.
Rudolph's compositions -- foundational beats, blocks of unusual chords -- took shape before us as the spirit guided him to vary the volume, extend a sustain, highlight duos or soloists. That spontaneity is the most exciting facet of Organic, and he augmented it with variety: Dark conga beats behind Jeff Schwartz's simple bass riffs often established the dominant heartbeat, but Rudolph mixed things up with scuffles, lopsided accents, African chants, swinging lilts, dissonant stings. One minute we were lolling in a quiet oasis, the next we were driving out evil spirits with rhythmic fury. Through it all, we were breathing.
Opening were all the aforementioned drummers and percussionists plus Rudolph and Noureddine El Warari -- an ensemble named for the occasion Hu Vibrational meets Carlos Niño & Friends. If the appellation reminds you of something like "Augustus Pablo meets King Tubby and the Roots Radics," that's not far off, as Dublab ally Niño (in mysterious black fedora) and Peterson piled electro-whooshes and spacy acoustic effects onto trancy Afro-Caribbean riddims. With El Warari's wonderful projected Rorschach photos calling to mind the symmetrical Tree of Life, it was as close as L.A. gets to a psychedelic Nyabinghi drum circle. We felt newborn.
Rudolph, by the way, worked hard all night. When fans slapped the back of his African tunic afterward, he felt like a racehorse ridden hard.
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PHOTOS BY FUZZY BINGHI.