Dusted Reviews

The Whammies - The Music of Steve Lacy, Vol. 2

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: The Whammies

Album: The Music of Steve Lacy, Vol. 2

Label: Driff

Review date: Aug. 13, 2013

Measured, slightly sour, and always one sharp corner ahead, there’s no mistaking the sound of Steve Lacy’s soprano saxophone playing. The compositions he penned throughout his 45-odd years of recording are as varied as you’d hope from a guy who started out playing Dixieland revivals and ended up one of the enduring icons of post-WWII jazz, yet still very much of a piece with his instrumental approach. And therein lies the challenge for anyone covering him: How do you assert your own personality when working with material so singular?

It helps to have plenty of personality of your own, and this band is not lacking. To name just two, Jeb Bishop’s distinctive voice on trombone salts a canny sense for how to twist a melody just right with hint of ribaldry, and drummer Han Bennink is an outsized, anarchistic goofball with an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz rhythm. Bennink also has the distinction of having played with Lacy several times over the decades. Collectively, they have a burliness about their approach that makes me think that “Lumps” should be renamed “Ker-thunks.”

It also helps that this ensemble’s line-up does not contain a soprano sax. Jorrit Dijkstra plays alto sax and lyricon, an electronic instrument devised for reed players that you might recall playing one of the hooks in Steely Dan’s “Peg” (if you remember anything else that Tom Scott played on the thing, you have my condolences). But Dijkstra puts it to good use, turning harmony into heat lightning when he doubles Mary Oliver’s violin line on “Pregnant Virgin” and lancing Pandelis Karayorgis’s ruminative piano on “Feline” with laser-like sine tones. On alto, he is not quite as astringent as Lacy, but on the overdubbed duet “Saxovision,” he finds his own way to reconcile elements of antique tonality with more modern dissonance. And he adds just enough curvaceousness to “Art” to turn the original’s desolation into romantically melancholy reverie.

The Whammies honor their source by performing his music in such a way that you know where it comes from, but unlike anyone else I’ve ever heard cover Lacy. In doing so, they set the bar pretty high for whoever comes next, and I expect there will be plenty to follow. Lacy’s been gone nine years, long enough for the sting of his departure to dull and for people to start approaching his songbook for what it is — a vein of melodies, methods and examples as rich as the legacy left by his hero, Thelonious Monk.

By Bill Meyer

Read More

View all articles by Bill Meyer

Find out more about Driff

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.