Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet 

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Billy Tipton was a female saxophonist from Spokane who spent most of her life posing as a man to get playing opportunities in the sexist jazz world. When she died in 1989 her true gender surprised everyone--even, apparently, Tipton's wife. Her passing coincided with a proliferation of female jazzers, some of the most adventurous of whom have formed the Seattle-based Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet--a quintet if you count drummer Pam Barger. Nominally led by Jessica Lurie, who writes most of the group's catchy material, and Amy Denio, the multiinstrumental experimental rocker who led the Tone Dogs and has played with people like Chris Cutler and Curlew, the BTMSQ generally favors the more polyrhythmic and contrapuntal possibilities--over the textural ones--of the sax quartet. On its second album, Box (New World), the unit sounds much tighter than it did on its 1993 debut, easily and accessibly blending fierce jazz riffing, klezmer fury, sweet melodicism, and pan-ethnic grooves. While a few tunes, such as "Vorrei Dire Due Parole," delve into nervy harmonic tricks, for the most part the group keeps things straight up. Their derring-do is more stylistic than technical, as in the witty interpolation of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis on "All Manic" and their novel arrangement of the traditional Cajun tune "Belle." Next month the local Eight Day Music label will release Send Me a Kosmos, the group's collaboration with the Estonian folk-punk band Ne Zhdali, which nicely reinforces the BTMSQ's unaffected, easygoing eclecticism. Thursday, August 15, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of BTMSQ.

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