Whammies | Constellation | Jazz | Chicago Reader
This is a past event.
When: Sat., Jan. 18, 9:30 p.m. 2014
This excellent transatlantic sextet formed a couple years ago to interpret the singular music of brilliant soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, who died in 2004. He was one of jazz’s greatest thinkers and improvisers, as well as an advocate by example for cross-disciplinary inspiration; he sometimes set modern poetry to his compositions, and he dedicated his work to a wide array of writers, artists, actors, scientists, and fellow musicians. The Whammies, named after one of Lacy’s tunes, have two members with direct connections to the man—masterful Dutch drummer Han Bennink often played with him, and Boston-based Dutchman and reedist Jorrit Dijkstra studied under him at the New England Conservatory—but everyone in the ensemble shares a great affinity and admiration for Lacy’s work. (The other four members are pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, violist and violinist Mary Oliver, and two former Chicagoans, trombonist Jeb Bishop and bassist Nate McBride.) Originally the group played only sporadically, but it’s developed into a working band with quicksilver instincts—its increased cohesion is apparent on last year’s Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2 (Driff), especially in its experiments with the forms and arrangements of Lacy’s tunes, which were usually clear in line and direct in melody. The Whammies bring chamberlike austerity to “Feline,” built only from lilting, intersecting lines on piano, viola, and Lyricon—it’s one of several pieces where some players sit out—and on “Threads” Bennink, who balances swing and free time as expertly as anyone who’s ever lived, chews up and smooths out the halting rhythms. On the band’s first album Oliver was a guest on four tracks, but here she’s a full-fledged member, her astringency echoing the brusque immediacy of the cello and violin that Lacy’s wife, Irene Aebi, added to many of his recordings. Like the first album, this one closes with a spirited reading of a tune by Thelonious Monk (“Shuffle Boil”), who greatly influenced Lacy and inspired him to form one of jazz’s first repertory groups, School Days, in the early 60s. Tonight, the Whammies perform as a sextet. On Fri 1/17, members of the Whammies will improvise in small ad hoc ensembles with Chicago musicians: bassist Jason Roebke, cellist Tomeka Reid, tenor saxophonist Ari Brown, cornetist Josh Berman, drummer Mike Reed, bassoonist Katherine Young, and bass clarinetist Jason Stein. —Peter Margasak



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