The Penguin Cafe Orchestra (PCO) was a collective of performing musicians created 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 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. The remaining members of the group briefly reunited for a handful of concerts in 2007.
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. Meanwhile, several original members of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra still continue to play together. Originally billing themselves as "The Anteaters", they now perform concerts of the music of Simon Jeffes as "The Orchestra That Fell To Earth".