On December 12th, 2015, The Kennedy Center Jazz Club showcased a ten-piece jazz ensemble from Philadelphia: the Fresh Cut Orchestra. The show, located in a private room in the Terrace Gallery, brought together approximately 160 people to listen to the ensemble. An all-male ensemble co-led by Josh Lawrence (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jason Fraticelli (upright bass), and Anwar Marshall (drums), played three pieces that evening.
A 75-minute show of intricately combined sounds, the ensemble went through phases of jazz, classical, rock, hip-hop, and electronica. While interchanging between different genres, the ensemble paid homage to Frank Sinatra, as it was the centenary of his birthday. Josh Lawrence exclaimed, “This is for Frank,” as the ensemble began to play inspired by Sinatra’s song “It was a very good year.” This particular piece included layers of collaborations and solos amongst different members of the ensemble.
Throughout the set, the ensemble played songs from their “From the Vine” album that pays tribute to mothers. In “The Mothers’ Suite,” Tim Conley started with electronic sounds as Brian Marsella played various instruments. The sounds of a rainforest exuded as a steady beat kept by Anwar Marshall, on the drums, continued and softened as another groovy rhythm took place. The ensemble went from the “Birth of a Child” to a “Mother’s Love,” as Jason Fraticelli, on the upright bass, strummed a soothing melody. Eventually taking stance for his feature, Mike Cemprola, on the tenor saxophone, exhibited excellent skills as he quickly changed notes with ease.
The contrasting sounds in “Life Mosaic,” a commissioned work created during their residency at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, followed the four stages in a person’s life: birth, adolescence, adulthood and death. Josh Lawrence (trumpet and flugelhorn), Anwar Marshall (drums), Jason Fraticelli (upright bass), and Tim Conley (guitar and laptop electronics) wrote separate sections which directly related to the four phases of life. The first section, “Born into What Village,” written by Anwar Marshall, started with the hip-hop phrase, “Blind to the ways of mankind.” This reference instantly reminded me of the song “A Child is Born” by Brand Nubian, hence Marshall’s piece related to the birth of life. As this section continued, repetition of sounds emphasized movement and texture.
The ensemble figuratively painted a “Life Mosaic” with the sound of music, as they reconfigured basic elements and formed them into complex themes. The genius creations for the next sections, “Waltz for the Universe,” written by Jason Fraticelli, “Presence” and “Olas Bolero” written by Josh Lawrence and “Impermanence,” written by Tim Conley molded the atmosphere with ambient sounds.
Passion conveyed through the body language and style of dress for each member. Brian Marsella, with a suit and colored striped socks, swayed his body as his fingers aggressively struck the keys of the piano (which at one point knocked his glasses off.)
The freedom of improvisation, syncopated sounds, harmonization, and beat established original works. Ballads progressed into burns, as scales intertwined within the rhythm. The layers of the music coexisted as one, along with the eye contact and synchronization of the members.
The Fresh Cut Orchestra was incredible and allowed the characteristics of each member to prevail. The ability of the members and sound to converge was impressive. The deeper meaning behind each piece allowed you to think and connect yourself into their world of music.
The Fresh Cut Orchestra: Josh Lawrence (trumpet & flugelhorn), Jason Fraticelli (upright bass), Anwar Marshall (drums), Mark Allen (saxophones), Mike Cemprola (saxophones), Brent White (trombone), Brian Marsella (piano and keyboards), Matt Davis (guitar), Tim Conley (guitar & laptop electronics), and Francois Zayas (percussion).
Running Time: 75 minutes, with no intermission.
Discovery Artist in the KC Jazz Club: Fresh Cut Orchestra was performed on December 12, 2015 at The Kennedy Center – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC.
The next performance for The Kennedy Center Jazz Club is Javon Jackson and Sax Appeal featuring NEA Jazz Master Jimmy Heath on December 18-19, 2015. For tickets call the box office at (202) 467-4600, or purchase them online.