Operative now for nearly a year, the Oakland Active Orchestra is a fascinating experiment in cultivating a large group that freely improvises with far more than the standard workable number of people, plays monthly gigs for donations only, and somehow keeps it all going. It's a testament to the East Bay's incredibly strong creative music scene that such a group is possible. And the orchestra's May concert, held at the Uptown nightclub, it played big-band orchestrations of rubato, odd-time pieces composed by the Oakland duo Myrmyr (who regularly serve as the orchestra's string section), an upbeat tune by trumpeter Tom Djll with plenty of free-jazz solos passed around, and two large-group free improvisations. Just as half the interest in improvised music lies in seeing the musicians grapple with the circumstances and environment of the performance, the Oakland Active Orchestra's struggle against practicality lends fascinating depth to its music.
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