Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Whammies, The Music of Steve Lacy 3, Live

The Whammies continue to regale our senses with innovative and exciting reinterpretations of Steve Lacy compositions. What seemed on the first release to be a one-off project in fact continues quite productively, so that we now have a third volume in the series, The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3 Live (Driff 1401). Type "Whammies" in the search box above for my reviews of the first two volumes.

The band remains much the same. Jason Roebke replaces Nate McBride on bass here; otherwise there is the familiar excellent lineup of Jorrit Dijkstra on alto and lyricon, Pandelis Karayorgis on piano, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Mary Oliver on violin and viola, and Han Bennink on drums. In many ways the ensemble combines the best of Chicago, Boston and Northern European avant jazzmen, sharing among themselves their love of freely stretching composed material. And so like the two others in the series the Lacy compositions are refit to the ensemble's creative needs, much like Lacy himself did with the music of Thelonious Monk. That they end the set with Monk's "Hornin' In" underscores this sort of round robin unfolding.

Nine Lacy tunes are given the Whammies treatment. With Lacy's compositional wealth there are plenty to cover and these are excellent vehicles once more. Taking Lacy's soprano out of the equation and handing the music over to these very sympathetic and rather brilliant instrumentalists give us a new sense of the extraordinary angularity of the Lacy approach.

The hour-long program has some beautiful spaces for improvisations by band members. Everyone most definitely hits their spots and the collectively loose openness also hits home wonderfully well.

Volume Three is in no way a let-down. It is every bit as good, perhaps even better than the first two. The band gels as a unit as much as ever. The experience of playing together over time unsurprisingly gives the ensemble in essence an even more homogenized blend without sacrificing the very out-front individuality of every member.

Another winner! Very much recommended.

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