Somewhere between hard bop and free jazz is a special musical happy place, check there for The Whammies! Artist run Driff Records and the debut release The Whammies Play The Music of Steve Lacy is an all-star lineup of some of the finest improvisational talent one could find in Boston, Chicago and the Amsterdam music scene.
The Whammies draw their name from an older Steve Lacy tune and features the label founders Jorrit Dijkstra on alto saxophone and lyricon and Pandelis Karayorgis on piano. Dijkstra and Karayorgis represent Bean Town while bassist Nate McBride and trombonist Jeb Bishop are the representative from the Chi-Town jazz community. On drums we have the 70 year young Dutch drummer Han Bennink and violinist Mary Oliver are the Amsterdam connection in what makes up a highly eclectic but deeply lyrical improvisational ensemble. The whimsical nature of this release may be one of its greater strengths in approaching free jazz and making the genre somewhat more accessible than most people might consider it without losing anything in regards to artistic integrity.
The tunes are connections to some of Lacy's early free jazz styling with band dedications to their own personal connections. There is one tune "Locomotive" which closes the release, this Thelonious Monk tune fits in perfectly in this open ended approach to some improvisational wizardry that is not for the faint of heart. From shifting dynamics and their harmonic base utilizing such instruments as the wind synthesizer from the 70's known as the lyricon, Dijkstra is pushing the limits of the alto saxophone in ways that have long since abandoned for some quarter of a century. The sheer intensity with which Dijkstra attacks his weapon of choice is hard to find matched from other free jazz or experimental players on the scene today.
Opening with the hypnotic and deceptively simple melody of "Bone" (to Lester Young) there is a subtlety to the lyrical flow that borders on addictive given the odd meter in which the tune is taken. "The Wire" shows off more of the dynamic tension created with shifting meter and the band's ability to change harmonic direction almost at will. The Monk tune "Locomotive" perhaps be the one tune that is carried off in a more traditional sense yet there is an open ended expansive sound that should have free jazz aficionados and others that enjoy walking that harmonic tightrope coming back for more. An exceptional debut release that makes one anxious to see what will be pulled out of their trick bag next!
Tracks: Bone (to Lester Young); As Usual (to Piet Mondrian); The Wire (to Albert Ayler); Ducks (to Ben Webster); Dutch Masters (to Spike Jones & the City Slickers); I Feel A Draft (to Mal Waldron); The Whammies! (to Fats Navarro); Locomotive.
Personnel: Jorrit Dijkstra: alto saxophone, lyricon; Pandelis Karayorgis: piano; Jeb Bishop; trombone; Mary Oliver: violin, viola (2,3,6,7); Nate McBride: bass; Han Bennink: drums.
Check out the link to CD Baby and see for yourself!