Shaking Ray Levis | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Shaking Ray Levis 

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Chattanooga isn't the sort of place one imagines as a hotbed for improvised music. But for the last decade Dennis Palmer and Bob Stagner, better known as the Shaking Ray Levis, have been struggling to smash that preconception and many more. In response to the music's reputation for seriousness, the duo bristles with knotty humor--as evidenced by the brilliant and hilariously titled 1993 album False Prophets or Dang Good Guessers (Incus). Palmer's array of old-fashioned synthesizers produces a profusion of goofy squiggles, acerbic melodic shards, and electronic flatulence that, with the intuitive percussion of Stagner (a former drummer in the house band at Dolly Parton's Dollywood), achieves an unlikely deftness. The duo keeps its ideas moving fast, too--most of the pieces on False Prophets clock in at under two minutes. The Shaking Rays also host a weekly radio program, offer educational outreach workshops, and program a daring annual music festival that in the past has featured artists as diverse as West African kora master Foday Muso Suso, saxophonist Anthony Braxton, and writer David Sedaris. The duo will be joined by Shaking Ray Levis Society members cellist Eric Ledford and guitarist Andy Pierce, who play together as Jr. Samples. Chicago improviser Jim O'Rourke may also jump in. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of the Shaking Ray Levis, by Bob Wright.

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