One of the real joys of living in West Hartford, CT has been going to see Michael Palin's The Other Orchestra perform every Tuesday night at Black Eyed Sally's in the heart of nearby downtown Hartford. Palin is the bassist and task-master of this adventurous 18-piece group that tackles all kinds of 'difficult' music, from Frank Zappa's "The Grand Wazoo" and Billy Cobham's "Crosswinds" to the Brecker Brothers' "Sponge," Weather Report's "Man in the Green Shirt" Miles Davis' "It's About That Time," Herbie Hancock's "Hang Up Your Hangups" and Jaco Pastorius' "Three Views of a Secret," along with tunes by Steely Dan, David Bowie, Van Morrison, Snarky Puppy and obscure gems like Charlie Brent's ultra-funky "Rice Pudding" (from Jaco's time during the early '70s with Wayne Cochran & The C.C. Riders).
Well, that longstanding tradition of Tuesday nights at Black Eyed Sally's ended with the Covid-19 lockdown back in March of 2020, and Palin's 18-piece aggregation had not been heard from since. Until August 1 of this year, when The Other Orchestra found a new home for its rambunctious rhythms and incredibly tight horn arrangements at the T-Salon in Bristol, about half an hour from their former home base in downtown Hartford. Now occupying a cavernous space with a balcony (a kind of mini-Ritz or Irving Plaza, for New Yorkers), The Other Orchestra brings a dedication and professionalism to the bandstand that is admirable and ultimately appealing to the casual jazz fan or the jazz-curious. Die-hard jazzers will no doubt be captivated by their inherent sense of swing and dynamism, whether they're attacking an uptempo Buddy Rich chart or settling into a beautiful, harmonically rich ballad like Joe Zawinul's "A Remark You Made" (a serene gem from Weather Report's 1977 classic album, Heavy Weather).
There's no cover charge at the T-Salon, located at 245 Main Street in the historic Bristol National Bank building, which was erected in 1875. And strangely, it doubles as a Hair & Nails Salon by day and a live music venue at night, with a food truck pulled alongside the building serving tacos, burritos, nachos and empañadas. Come and get your hair and nails done, then stay for the music. And if it's a Tuesday night, The Other Orchestra will be swinging!