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Published: 2007/06/25
by Mark Burnell

Jamcam Chronicles : Season Two Set Six

The latest offering from the folks at Jam Cam Chronicles is almost three hours of music from the 2006 Everyone Orchestra shows in Portland Oregon, held as the annual benefit for the Pangaea Project, and Im happy to report that as far as both musical content and technical quality are concerned, this is probably Jam Cam Chronicles best release yet.
Id heard about Matt Butlers Everyone Orchestra concept and while it seemed pretty exciting stuff in theory (conducted improvisation involving some excellent musicians), the actual music Id heard from live recordings was, for me at any rate, much more miss than hit and frankly a little tedious. I realize now that what was missing was the visual element. Actually being able to_see_ the musicians working off each other, watching Butlers goofy direction from in front of the stage (at one point he holds his board up to the audience with the instruction howl, which they do to surprisingly good effect) makes all the difference. Watching this musical balancing act is wildly entertaining, and the obvious excitement on the faces of everyone on stage is infectious.
Musically, there are fourteen wholly improvised pieces and two based on existing songs. Unsurprisingly, given the eclectic array of instruments onstage, the music is very diverse, and indeed some of the best moments here are when disparate styles converge. Theres an astounding sequence that starts with Jamie Mansfield on mandolin and slowly builds via some Beach Boys-esque harmony vocals, some beatboxing, and subtle percussion, to a grinding funk groove. Another great sequence starts with Tony Furtato and some banjo picking and gradually morphs over ten terrific minutes into a blazing Santana-like workout, courtesy of the percussion players and Scott Law on guitar. Of course ot every improvisation works— it would be a miracle if it did with the unique setup, but its really interesting to see Butler, in his role as conductor, recognize that the music has hit a cul-de-sac and try to move it along in a slightly different direction. The real highlight here is a take on Phishs You Enjoy Myself, which lasts close on 30 minutes and is simply brilliant. Keyboardist Asher Fulero tackles first 12 minutes on solo piano, and its quite astounding, sounding like a Beethoven sonata on acid. When the other musicians join in after the boy, man sequence, they take the middle section into a long rolling jam that seems as if it could easily transform into a cover of Dave Masons Feeling Alright, and the entire thing is pretty darned thrilling. This segment alone is worth the price of the DVD.
Production-wise, this is the JamCam folks strongest release yet. There have been odd moments in previous releases where the technical side of things has somewhat betrayed their fan-based origins— not that that isnt a small price to pay for what theyve previously released, considering the dearth of grassroots coverage of the Jamband scene, but theres obviously a tremendous amount of work put into this edition. From the many camera angles to the postproduction work on what was reputed to be a very hot soundboard, this is an excellent effort all round.
Highly recommended.

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