Peter Gordon's Love of Life Orchestra is not a chamber ensemble, nor is it exactly a jazz band or a rock group; somehow, it manages to be all three. At George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium Saturday night, Gordon and LOLO opened with the percussive, African-inspired "Pre-Trinity," progressed through the playful tonality of "Dingle Music," and concluded with a knowing, affectionate rearrangment of Duke Ellington's "East St. Louis Toodle-oo." Although Gordon's eclecticism had its odd moments -- how often does one hear serial composition performed with a backbeat? -- the bits and pieces he presented were always assembled into a coherent and convincing whole.
Part of the art in Gordon's writing is his ability to frame the contributions of his players, and Saturday's program was no exception. Although the ensemble passages offered little room for any but percussionist David Van Tiegham to shine, the solo spots more than compensated. In fact, from pianist Blue Gene Tyranny's eloquent soliloquy in "Three Women" to the shrieking exchange of high-harmonics between Gordon's E-flat clarinet and Lenny Pickett's tenor saxophone, it seemed Gordon's greatest achievement has been in writing material that manages to be even more interesting than his soloists.