the penguin cafe orchestra (pco) was a collective of performing musicians founded by classically trained british guitarist, composer and arranger simon jeffes. jeffes and cellist co-founder helen liebmann were core members throughout its life and a number of other musicians joined as the band grew and developed, many of whom appear on the pco's six studio and two live albums.
the pco toured extensively during the 1980s and 1990s, and two albums, when in rome... (1988) and concert program (1995) captured the sound of the live ensemble. the penguin's sound is not easily categorized, but has elements of exuberant folk music and a minimalist aesthetic occasionally reminiscent of composers such as philip glass.
the penguin cafe orchestra recorded and performed for 24 years until jeffes died of a brain tumour in 1997. several remaining members of the original group reunited for three concerts in 2007. since then five original members have continued to play concerts of the penguins music, initially as 'the anteaters' and more recently under the name 'the orchestra that fell to earth'.
simon jeffes' son, arthur jeffes, subsequently founded a distinct successor band called simply penguin cafe in 2009, which features no original pco members. this new ensemble does, however, feature many pco numbers in its live repertoire, and also records and performs new music written by the younger jeffes.