Brian O’Neill: eclectic percussionist, drummer, composer (Boston, MA)

Ensembles and projects

Groups I perform with regularly or run myself:

Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica (dual ensemble)

"Anything but straightforward"—Washington Post

"Deliciously entertaining" —Wall Street Journal

"4 stars...Exquisite attention to details" —Sunday London Times

My group, Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica is comprised of two acclaimed ensembles: my original, global jazz and exotic chamber music quintet that I lead on vibraphone and percussion, and the world's only 22-piece big band performing the lost space-age pop music of Juan Garcia Esquivel. My primary focus is on composing and arranging music for the quintet formation, which utilizes a range of sounds including vibraphone and hand percussion, acoustic bass, tanbur, resonator guitar, oud, bass flute, flute, and shakuhachi. Our music straddles the line between composed, notated chamber music, and improvised jazz, with coloring derived from many instruments of non-western origin. The big band is unique in that we perform my transcriptions of Esquivel's original recordings, the original scores for which were lost in the 1970s. (The majority of the repertoire we perform is also Esquivel's studio orchestra output; music that was never performed live during his time.) As of 2016, the group has released three albums as part of its ongoing Exotica for Modern Living series. You can view videos and more info about the quintet and the big band.

Music director, vibes, percussion, piano since 2006.

Ishna (Irish)

Ishna is a new septet led by Ciaran Nagle (founder, Three Irish Tenors) and fiddler Tara Novak (Three Irish Tenors, Druid). I perform on contemporary bodhran, drumset, and an untraditional multi-percussion setup utilizing frame drums and tambourines from around the globe combined with cajon and Argentinian bombo.

Member since 2016

Klezwoods (original klezmer/balkan/jazz)

Klezwoods started out as a traditional klezmer wedding ensemble, and eventually transitioned into an ensemble focused on writing original music inspired by klezmer, eastern European folk, balkan, jazz, and other styles. My primary instruments in this group are Arabic and Balkan percussion (doumbek, tappan, riq), although cajon, pandeiro, tammorra, and other goodies often appear on stage. Klezwoods is Joe Kessler (violin), Michael McLaughlin (accordion), Tev Stevig (guitar), Jim Gray (tuba), Dan Linden (trombone), Becky Wexler (clarinet), Grant Smith (drums), Sam Dechenne (tpt), and Greg Loughman (bass). As of 2016, the group has made three recordings.

Member since 2010

The Why (chamber/jazz quartet)

Playing hand percussion in a jazz quartet? Yes! Bert Seager, the jazz pianist who leads the group, writes great chamber-esque jazz compositions with rhythms from around the world. Joining Bert and I frequently is Rick DiMuzio (clarinet, soprano) and various bass players including Max Ridley, Sean Farias, and others.

Member since 2012

Jeni Jol (Otto-Americana guitar/percussion duo)

Jeni Jol ("New Path" in Macedonian) is the brainchild of guitarist Tev Stevig and explores the potential of playing the fretless nylon string guitar in the clawhammer style. Clawhammer, or frailing, is typically associated with old time American folk music played on the banjo, but Tev uses this uniquely American playing style on the fretless guitar to arrive at new arrangements of his favorite tunes from the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey, as well as some original material. I use an interesting setup of specifically-tuned frame drums and marimbula in this group, effectively providing the role of the bass player and rhythm accompaniment simultaneously.

Member since 2012

David Wax Museum (Mexo-americana)

My peer in La Tuza, David Wax, runs this great Americana group which utilizes Mexican rhythms and guitars underneath English vocals. As they put it, "The David Wax Museum infuses Mexican son into its literary, countrified folk rock" and they are "...the much buzzed-about Boston band..." according to NPR. I occasionally perform with David when he wants percussion enhancement behind the group which often works as a duo or trio. Typically, my setup is similar to La Tuza: cajon, lap-style frame drums, and pandeiro. I recorded on their 2011 release, Everything is Saved.

Sideman since 2009.

Infrequent/Inactive/Past groups