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>The Whammies Play The Music Of Steve Lacy
>The Whammies

 


 

The Whammies Play The Music Of Steve Lacy
The Whammies
Driff Records 1201, 201
2

Jorrit Dijkstra, alto sax, lyricon, analog electronics
Pandelis Karayorgis, piano 
Jeb Bishop, trombone
Nate McBride, bass
Han Bennink, drums
guest: Mary Oliver, violin, viola 

available on Bandcamp

The Whammies page

 

TRACK LISTING

1. Bone (to Lester Young) 8:46
2. As Usual (to Piet Mondrian) 5:42
3. The Wire (to Albert Ayler) 3:46
4. Ducks (to Ben Webster) 4:18
5. Dutch Masters (to Spike Jones & the City Slickers) 7:57
6. I Feel a Draft (to Mal Waldron) 4:45
7. The Whammies (to Fats Navarro) 4:03
8. Locomotive 7:15



Reviews:

 


One of my most anticipated sets at this year's Umbrella Music Festival is Saturday night, when fantastic Boston pianist Pandelis Karayorgis returns to town to front his Chicago-based quintet at the Hideout on Saturday. That band includes bassist Nate McBride, a old partner from their Beantown days together, as well as reedists Dave Rempis and Keefe Jackson and drummer Frank Rosaly; it's one in Karayorgis's long line of collaborations involving Chicagoans. Last month another of those groups, the Whammies, released its first album, and it's a doozy.

The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy is one of the first titles released by Driff, a new label Karayorgis runs with Dutch expat reedist Jorrit Dijkstra—who himself has worked extensively with Chicago players in his Flatlands Collective. The Whammies are Karayorgis, Dijkstra, McBride, former Chicago trombonist Jeb Bishop, and brilliant Dutch drummer Han Bennink (violinist and violinst Mary Oliver plays on four of the album's eight tracks). Dijkstra studied with singular soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy late in Lacy's life, after he returned from decades in Paris to teach at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music, and Bennink played and recorded with Lacy in the 80s—but all of the Whammies have been touched by his art.

Lacy was one jazz's greatest improvisers and musical minds, but his achievements as a composer haven't been celebrated as they should. New York band Ideal Bread has devoted itself to Lacy's music—sometimes creating arrangements from patchworks of different Lacy performances of his own pieces—and the Whammies further demonstrate the appealing malleability of these compositions. Lacy's tunes are usually clear in line and direct in melody, qualities that allow for significant interpretational latitude. I haven't gone back to the Lacy performances of the tunes the Whammies play here (there's also a take on Thelonious Monk's "Locomotive," which makes sense since Lacy played with Monk and formed the first Monk repertoire band with Roswell Rudd in the 60s), but he recorded multiple versions of them, usually with different bands and instrumental formats.

The Whammies approach the tunes as hard-core improvisers, focusing on their melodic grace and generosity in the head charts and then letting their solos rip. Dijkstra alternates between alto saxophone and lyricon, an analog wind synthesizer, which he often plays on the tracks Oliver is on; the combination of violin an synth provides a nicely astringent upper-register timbre to balance Bishop's rubbery, full-bodied trombone. Karayorgis plays with impressive economy, pushing and pulling the others. And of course Bennink is Bennink, swinging ferociously and dropping snare bombs like a drunken WWII pilot. "As Usual" sidles along with a sing-songy feel, and the brisk "Ducks" lives up to its title with a playful conversation between squawky, flatulent plunger-mute trombone and Dijkstra's Zorn-like quacks. Below you can check out the band's driving take on "Dutch Masters."

Peter Margasak, Chicago Reader, Nov 9, 2012 (link)


Voted among top 5 Tributes in the New York City Jazz Record, January 2013 issue.


The rich legacy left by Steve Lacy has been the source of numerous tributes since his untimely passing in 2004. Among the most devoted interpreters are Ideal Bread-a New York-based quartet led by baritone saxophonist Josh Sinton, who worked with the iconic soprano saxophonist, and The Rent-a Canadian ensemble founded by trombonist Scott Thompson, who took lessons with Lacy's old foil, trombonist Roswell Rudd. Add to this shortlist of personally connected Lacy repertory bands, The Whammies (named after an old Lacy tune), an all-star unit that instills Lacy's notoriously quirky themes with an appropriately insouciant attitude on Play the Music of Steve Lacy, their debut for Driff Records.
Co-led by Dutch alto saxophonist and former Lacy student Jorrit Dijkstra and fellow Boston-based pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, The Whammies feature an impressive international lineup. Trombonist Jeb Bishop and bassist Nate McBride are high profile bandleaders from Chicago, each with strong ties to the Boston scene. Legendary Dutch drummer Han Bennink, the most imposing member, played with Lacy in the 1980s. Guest violinist Mary Oliver, also from the Netherlands, appears on four cuts.

Augmented by personalized dedications, the group respectfully interprets Lacy's singular compositions, preserving the unique melodic, harmonic and rhythmic characteristics of each tune. Their feisty extrapolations extend the originals' expressive potential while simultaneously alluding to the historic efforts of Lacy's most distinctive collaborators: Bishop's smeary bluster subtly recalls Rudd's avant-gutbucket musings; Oliver's sinewy rasp evokes the prickly violin ruminations of Lacy's wife, Irene Aebi; and Karayorgis' pugilistic cadences find concordance in the spiky pianism of Bobby Few, Lacy's long-time accompanist, although Karayorgis' capricious intervals draw a stronger conceptual through-line to the mercurial aesthetic of Thelonious Monk, Lacy's mentor.

Dijkstra's un-tempered alto phrasing is stylistically congruent with Lacy's idiosyncratic soprano technique, yet his surreal experiments with the Lyricon, a vintage analog synthesizer, push the music into realms well beyond the conventions of acoustic free jazz. Though Dijkstra studied with Lacy at the New England Conservatory, Bennink, however, provides the strongest link to the late saxophonist's work. The seventy year- old drummer easily holds his own in younger company, bringing a brash vivaciousness to the set with bombastic accents and rambunctious interjections that would have made Lacy proud.

Raw yet respectful, Play the Music of Steve Lacy is far more than just a spirited tribute to an acknowledged master of improvised music, it is a testament to Lacy's merit as a composer of note. In the immortal words of Monk: "Don't play what the public wants. You play what you want and let the public pick up on what you're doing, even if it does take them fifteen, twenty years."

Troy Collins, All About Jazz, November 16, 2012(link)

There’s a neat bit of poetic irony in the fact that a record devoted to the music of Steve Lacy, an American who spent most of his creative life based in Europe, has been released by a label run by European exiles who live in the USA. Driff Records is co-helmed by Jorrit Dijkstra, a Dutch alto saxophonist who relocated to the USA in 2002, and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, who decamped from Greece to America in 1985. Lacy crossed the Atlantic to find an environment where he could make a living realising an expanded notion of what a jazz musician should be able to do; Driff’s proprietors travelled in reverse simply so that they could play jazz.

While Lacy distilled everything to clear lines whose endings could be endlessly redrawn, The Whammies delight in disrupting his melodic progressions. The sextet, which include ICP Orchestra vets Mary Oliver on strings and Han Bennink on drums as well as Americans Jeb Bishop on trombone and Nate McBride on bass, introduce discontinuities that magnify small facets of the source material. Bennink played with Lacy on some Soul Note releases in the 70s and 80s, but there’s a lot more of what Kevin Whitehead called his wooden shoe timing here, with passages of pre-bebop swing abruptly piling up, then recovering their spring. And Karayorgis brings a cubist sense of angle and distorted dimension that`s quite Monkish; Lacy, of course, never tired of analysing Monk’s music, but Karayorgis’s brash interjections play up the jaggedness. Dijkstra’s occasional use of the lyricon, an early electronic reed instrument, not only redeems it from the crimes of its first champion, Tom Scott; he uses it to recast Lacy's bone-dry sense of humour into something earthier, especially when he and Bishop squelch as one on the marvellously muddy “As Usual".

Prior to The Whammies, the partnership between Bishop and Dijkstra has played out over three records with the latter’s Pillow Circles and Flatlands Collective, but 1000 Words argues strongly that they sound best working as equals. Each man brings one horn, a handful of tunes and a tableful of mutes. Instead of Lacy-like stark lines, they work in rhythmically assertive counterpoints and carefully graduated shadings, so that whatever one man does make`s the other’s playing sound better. On “Klopgeest” and “Standpipe”, short spat-out notes and exquisitely elongated growls put the physical presence they’ve alluded to in larger groups front and centre. And the way Dijkstra illuminates Bishop's lyricism and pathos on “Ice” exudes a warmth and empathy that makes nonsense of the tune's title. The duo cover 12 tracks in under 47 minutes, rendering each performance with pith and clarity; one never feels like they're marking time before the next idea presents itself. While The Whammies P/ay The Music Of Steve Lacy does a swell job of personalising an august chapter in jazz history, the way 1000 Words presents a fully engaged and engaging real-time dialogue is even more satisfying.

Bill Meyer, The Wire, January 2013

 


A communal spirit warms this exuberant tribute to Steve Lacy, which brings together a great cast of players with varied mutual experiences and overlapping ties to Boston (alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis), Chicago (trombonist Jeb Bishop and bassist Nate McBride) and Amsterdam (drummer Han Bennink and violinist Mary Oliver).

The Whammies, named after a Lacy tune included here, approach the material with a sometimes cartoonish sense of play, which is right up the antic Bennink`s alley. "Ducks," one of the songs he played with Lacy during the 1980s, is atwitter with honks and puckers. "Bone" boasts a schoolboy melody reminiscent of Thelonious Monk (whose "Locomotive" caps the album in surprisingly elegant fashion). "The Wire," the most rambunctious track, trades in goose bumps with Oliver's high pinched and plucked notes offsetting Dijkstra`s eerie whistling tones on lyricon, an analog synthesizer.

The earthy textures created by the hard-edged Karayorgis, cutting Dijkstra, robust Bishop and deep-bowing McBride keep the songs on edge. Sometimes the ensemble projects a raggedy looseness that reflects Lacy’s roots in Dixieland;
sometimes it attunes itself to the blunt rhythms that distinguished Lacy’s approach to Monk. The album is one of the initial offerings of Dijkstra`s and Karayorgis' Driff label, along with 1000 Words, a duo effort by Dijkstra and Bishop, both of whom deserve much wider recognition.

Lloyd Sachs, Jazz Times Magazine, December 2012

 


In this music, legacies are an interesting thing. How are we to perceive/deal with the work of an esteemed musician/composer after their death? What is more important - the songbook or conjuring the ‘feeling’ of the absent artist? For a figure like soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy (1934-2004), whose work was both tuneful and open-ended and who saw himself in a lineage of figures liberating and extending the possibilities of form and improvisation, it’s tough to figure out the ‘right’ response.

Challenging as it might be, Lacy’s compositions are sometimes covered by others. In addition to the excellent New York quartet Ideal Bread, we can now add transatlantic group The Whammies to the list of repertory interpreters. The Whammies feature the saxophonist’s former students, collaborators and estimable contemporary improvisers - pianist Pandelis Karayorgis, altoist Jorrit Dijkstra, violinist/violist Mary Oliver, drummer Han Bennink, bassist Nate McBride and trombonist Jeb Bishop. Dijkstra is a searing and quixotic player; combined with the garrulous and fleet trombone of Bishop and Karayorgis’ blocky, motivic phrasing, the ensemble is knotty and swinging and hinges on a surprisingly tasteful Bennink. The Whammies are respectful yet calamitous in respect to Lacy’s ‘book’, which needs a bit of dirt under the fingernails to remain relevant.

Clifford Allen, The New York City Jazz Record, January 2013

 



2012 JJA 'Best of' Lists(link)
Francis Davis

20 Dec 2012 12:50 AM | Francis Davis

1) Ryan Truesdell, Centennial (ArtistShare)
2) Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform)
3) Jacob Garchik, The Heavens (Yesterve)
4) Sam  Rivers-Dave Holland-Barry Altschul, Reunion (Pi)
5) Vijay Iyer, Accelerando (ACT)
6) The Whammies, Play the Music of Steve Lacy (Driff)
7) Lee Konitz-Bill Frisell-Gary Peacock-Joey Baron, Enfants Terribles (HalfNote)
8) Josh Berman, There Now  (Delmark)
9) Matthew Shipp, Elastic Aspects (Thrsty Ear)
10) John Abercrombie, Within a  Song (ECM)

 


Very few avant-gardists have had their compositions recorded by others, much less by tribute bands, but Lacy is well on his way, with two albums by Ideal Bread, and now this inspired sextet: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Pandelis Karayorgis (piano), Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Nate McBride (bass), and Han Bennink (drums). Seven Lacy tunes cut at odd angles, the growl of the trombone especially appreciated. Then closes with Monk's "Locomotive," much as Lacy would have done. A-
Tom Hull, Dec 17 2012
http://www.tomhull.com/ocston/notebook/1212.php

 


Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy’s legacy is being well taken care of. There are at least three tribute ensembles re-inventing his music (saxophonist Josh Stinton’s Ideal Bread; the Canadian outfit The Rent, founded by trombonist Scott Thompson; and most recently, The Whammies, with their debut, Plays the Music of Steve Lacy, on the newly-formed Driff Records). Lacy passed away in June, 2004, but his very modern music (greatly influenced by Lacy’s avowed hero, Thelonious Monk) lives on and remains an adventurous listen. Plays the Music of Steve Lacy can be purchased on CD, downloaded online or can be streamed. This review refers to the compact disc.

The Whammies (a sextet named after a Lacy tune which frequently showed up on subsequent live Lacy releases) consists of alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra, a former Lacy student (Dijkstra also utilizes the Lyricon in unique ways on select tracks); pianist Pandelis Karayorgis (who, like Dijkstra, calls Boston his current home); bassist Nate McBride and trombonist Jed Bishop (both are participants in Chicago’s vibrant jazz scene, particularly with Ken Vandermark); Dutch drummer Han Bennink (who performed with Lacy in the 1980s) and, on four numbers, guest violinist Mary Oliver (who also adds viola), who is one of Bennink’s bandmates in the Instant Composer’s Pool.

The Whammies collaboratively coalesce on material from Lacy’s experimental sides from the 1970s. The Whammies open with “Bone (to Lester Young),” which Lacy often redid in various guises, including as a solo rendition, and in different group lineups. The piece, which generously quotes from Monk, commences with Dijkstra and Bishop twittering at each other, with Bennink’s drums laying a rhythmic base, and then the full group sways into an amiable swing, which becomes increasingly deconstructed and within a couple of minutes, is steered into some outsider jazz, with imaginative and intuitive solos from the horns. While the nearly nine-minute “Bone” showcases Lacy’s evolving compositional style (at times asymmetrical and repetitive), “Bone” also hits a confident non-combative stride.

There are several nods to when Bennink was with Lacy. The knotty “Ducks (to Ben Webster)” is a notably warped work, where sax and trombone replicate the quacks and squawks evocative of the number’s aquatic fowl. This is aggressive music, stamped with Lacy’s free-jazz vocabulary and emblazoned with avant-garde movements. More appealing is an extended cruise through “Dutch Masters (to Spike Jones and the City Slickers),” which also inclines toward Lacy’s Monk-like stimulus. This is another lengthier cut, which affords plenty of room for all involved: Karayorgis is appreciably displayed, mixing rebellious rhythms and bristly piano runs reminiscent of Lacy’s longtime accompanist, Bobby Few, with some discerning, Monk-like moves. Bishop and Dijkstra also bring in some warm but edgy solos, deftly shifting from cordiality to extemporaneously conceptual. Another, apparently painterly-induced, selection is “As Usual (to Piet Mondrian),” which adroitly renovates what Lacy produced with his sextet. Oliver recreates the smeared violin of Lacy’s wife, Irene Aebi (but wisely eschews Aebi’s often acerbic vocals): Oliver’s auditory daubs are mirrored by Bishop’s similarly smudged trombone tone, thus providing the antithesis of Mondrian’s famous rigid geometric shapes and interlocking planes, although “As Usual” does have moments of  pure abstraction, which does fit with Mondrian’s artistic philosophy. Oliver also joins in on one of Lacy’s signature tunes, the uncompromising, “The Wire (to Albert Ayler),” which seems modeled after Ayler’s definitive free jazz turmoil, with unfettered contributions from Bennink and Oliver, and some otherworldly effects via Dijkstra’s Lyricon, which has an extreme range of pitches and dynamics which cannot be produced on a traditional sax. Changing aspects occupy an important function on “I Feel a Draft (to Mal Waldron),” where Dijkstra’s vintage analog electronics also execute an integral role: Oliver also supplies some prominent violin which sometimes swerves toward a processed quality. The tune begins with a light demeanor, and then advances into a swirling slant where the Whammies reach a condensed crush of dissonances and multifaceted melodic elements: when “I Feel a Draft” sighs to a close, it is like the liberation of pent-up passion into a single, drawn-out breath
.
The Whammies conclude with the only non-Lacy composition, Monk’s “Locomotive,” which is an affirmation to Lacy’s many Monk homages he performed or taped over his extensive career. This is the most straightforward piece. Dijkstra swings on alto sax with skill and an attenuation of notes. At one point, Karayorgis places “Locomotive” into a freedom-spilling objectivity, but keeps himself in check so “Locomotive” never veers too far off the rails. Play the Music of Steve Lacy is a vivid re-examination of some of Lacy’s creative output. Luckily, there are more Lacy ventures which are equally interesting. Earlier this year, the Clean Feed label reissued the rare Estilhaços, which documents a 1972 Portugal concert which was previously hard to find; and other labels have reprinted several Lacy projects over the past decade, which will no doubt continue, since there are ample stage and studio efforts which have not seen the light of day in a long time.

Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition, December 17, 2012(link)


Throughout his career Steve Lacy paid tribute to Thelonious Monk, and even dedicated numerous albums to Monk’s music. A lot of great jazz musicians feted Monk and were clearly influenced by the master pianist/composer, too, but perhaps not with the zeal of Lacy. In the years since Lacy’s death in 2004, he’s been adulated himself among practitioners of out-jazz and the respect is even reaching the point of tribute bands being created expressly to perform his quirky, original compositions. One of these, Ideal Bread, got our attention for its bringing to life Lacy compositions Lacy himself didn’t get to introduce before his death. This time, though, there’s a debut record by a new ensemble dedicated to spreading Lacy’s legacy through songs that built that legacy.

The Whammies, as it’s called, is a group pulled together from the progressive jazz scenes of Chicago, Boston and Amsterdam, instigated by alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis. Jeb Bishop plays the trombone, Nate McBride is on acoustic bass, Han Bennink, a legend himself, is behind the drum kit and for half of the tracks, Mary Oliver performs on violin and viola. The name “Whammies” comes from a Lacy composition, one that starts with a slightest kernel of a repeating, rapidly descending note pattern and explodes out in all directions from there. That song and six other Lacy songs get revisited on The Whammies’ debut, Play The Music Of Steve Lacy.

In paying tribute to their hero, these guys go beyond playing Lacy’s songs, but also adopt much of the easy going nature and humor that belies serious musicianship prowling just under that carefree surface. They seemingly are on a mission to portray (accurately) of Lacy as someone who loved old jazz — going all the way back to Dixieland — but using that music as a launching point into the jazz that leaps forward into original sounds and structures falling far outside of convention. A fowl-like racket appear on a couple of tunes, like “Bone,” which begins with Dijkstra and Bishop chirping like birds before breaking out into an old time swing that quickly deconstructs, leading to crisp inside-outside solos by each of these horn players. More overt in its reference to feathered creatures is “Ducks,” where, surprise! the sax and trombone are squeaking and honking like mallards.

Bennink is a living link back to Lacy, as he’s performed with him back in the 80s, and Bennink’s playing on this record could even be heard as a direct extension of Lacy’s concept to the drums. His intelligent use of space and subtly impactful hues as he has one foot in tradition and the other into the abyss helps to crate this warped blues found on “As Usual.” Bennink controls the shifting moods on “I Feel A Draft,” through the steady building of tension and release.
One noted departure from Lacy’s approach is Dijkstra’s passion for vintage analog electronics, carried out here through is occasional use of the wind synth instrument, the lyricon. We hear the lyricon combine with Oliver’s viola to create odd noises, with Bennink’s jittery pattern accompanying them along the way. This vintage electronic instrument reappears for “I feel A Draft,” used this time to eek out Morse code-like bleeps that competes with Bishop’s and Oliver’s own random dissonance for attention.

The long shadow that Monk cast on Lacy is felt on this album, too: “Dutch Masters” is a Thelonious type strain that’s almost vaudevillian before Karayorgis steers it to a Cecil Taylor type strain. The final track is even a Monk tune, “Locomotive,” which is a straightest played track on the whole album. Dijkstra swings on his alto with an adroit economy of notes. Karayorgis threatens to go off deep end and send the song into freedom, but pulls himself in just as you think he will drive the song off course.

The music and heritage of Steve Lacy is probably not forgotten by any avant garde jazz musician of any caliber, but The Whammies are making sure that the fans of this music form don’t forget about one of its most important practitioners and composers since the of the last three decades, either. By capturing the spirit — and not just the music — of Mr. Lacy, The Whammies put together a tribute album I think Lacy himself would have been proud of.

S. Victor Aaron, Something Else! November 14, 2012(link)


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!

Brent Black, @CriticalJazz, criticaljazz.com, October 2012 (link)


The Whammies are an international group formed by Boston-based Dutch alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra and Athens-born pianist Pandelis Karayorgis. The line-up is completed by Chicagoans Jeb Bishop on trombone and Nate McBride on bass, plus Dutch master drummer Han Bennink, with his fellow ICP member California-born Mary Oliver sitting in on four tracks on violin and viola. The group takes its name from an 80's Steve Lacy composition — fitting, as they concentrate on Lacy's music, but also appropriate to the energy and attitude their music conveys. This album is their first release; studio-recorded in February 2012, it consists of seven Lacy compositions plus Thelonious Monk's "Locomotive". Group members' past experience amply qualifies them to play Lacy: Karayorgis studied and extensively performed Monk's music which was so vital to Lacy, in 1991 compiling a collection of all Monk's compositions; Dijkstra studied improvisation and composition with Lacy; in the 80's Bennink played and recorded extensively with Lacy.
This album kicks off in fine style with its longest track, "Bone", at nearly nine minutes. After warming up with an impressive staccato trombone and sax intro, the quintet gives the straightforward melody a driving ensemble run-through which could signal a hard bop reading of the piece. In keeping with the tune's title, that serves as the launch pad for a wide-ranging, soaring 'bone solo from Bishop before Dijkstra responds in kind with his own fluid solo followed by a piano solo that is their equal; the piece is rounded off in classic fashion by a crisp reprise of the head. The only other track to adopt the same conventional intro-solos-reprise format is the closing version of the Monk piece, with solo showcases for McBride, Dijkstra and, particularly, Karayorgis.
With those two tracks as bookends, in between are six more on which the group adopts a looser approach to the material. Rather than taking turns to solo, the musicians' contributions continually overlap, creating a constantly evolving soundscape which is rich in detail and full of surprises — in other words, it is great fun! The Whammies interpret Lacy their own way, without being unduly reverent to the compositions or seeking to recreate the original versions. With Dijkstra's use of a lyricon, they even manage to integrate analogue electronics into the ensemble without it sounding like heresy. The end result is that they breathe new life into Lacy's music, not consign it to history. Very appropriately, "The Whammies" is the album's high spot, four minutes of unbridled blowing by six players in peak form — the kind of music to set pulses racing and juices flowing.
John Eyles, The Squid’s Ear, January 2013 (link)



Steve Lacy had such a distinctive style on soprano. His groups, especially from his middle period on, had a very distinct way about them as well. These factors were so prominent in his later music that I, at least, have tended to associate them as a nearly inextricable part of his compositions. Like Lacy's own treatment of the music of Thelonious Monk, a change in context for the compositions can help one listen to the melodic-harmonic implications of the compositions in themselves. Just as Lacy and others gave us an earful of Monk-as-composer that helped us more appreciate his music, so now this engaging recording at hand.
The Whammies are doing the same thing for Steve Lacy's music on The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy (Driff CD 1201). Who are the Whammies? They are an all-star avant unit of Jorrit Dijkstra on alto and lyricon, Pandelis Karayorgis on piano, Jeb Bishop on trombone, Nate McBride on bass, Han Bennink on drums and, for half the numbers, Mary Oliver on violin or viola.
These are artists known for their improvisational personalities and for the most part composers of merit in their own right. They hommage the hommagian, so to speak, by including one Monk number, "Locomotive." Otherwise it's Lacy all the way.
And it's not "straight" Lacy for that matter. It is arranged, freely articulated and improvisationally packed music of a very high order, individually and collectively. The set reaffirms the importance of Lacy the composer while also giving you a great ensemble going to it.
Don't miss this one. I hope the Whammies keep it going. It's a great combination of players!!
Grego Applegate Edwards, gapplegate music review, 2/21/13


Next to Paul Motian, Steve Lacy might be the one instrumentalist who is starting to be saluted for his compositions, posthumously. The quartet Ideal Bread is devoted to the late soprano saxophonist's work, and now come the Whammies, a wild sextet of musicians hailing from Amsterdam, Chicago and Boston. The most famous name on this disc is that of drummer Han Bennink, who played with Lacy in the 1980s. But the group is the vision of Driff Records founders Jorrit Dijkstra (alto saxophone) and Pandelis Karayorgis (piano),who are based now in the Boston area. Joining them are Chicagoans Nate McBride (bass) and Jeb Bishop (trombone) and, for four tracks, Bennink's Instant Composer's Pool associate Mary Oliver (violin, viola).
 
The group pays attention to details of the compositions, some having more apparent structures while others come across more like sketches to toss off before jumping into the fire. Each title is accompanied by a dedication, something Lacy didn't always indicate on the original releases, but which Dijkstra unearthed while researching the composer. They offer some insight into the work too, explaining the loose movement of "The Wire," dedicated to Albert Ayler, and giving a hint about the work of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian in the Monk-like shuffle of "As Usual," in which Oliver plays in the upper register of her instrument while Dijkstra joins her on lyricon, an antiquated wind synthisizer which sounds more like static-y noise. "Ducks," dedicated to Ben Webster, could go either way, evoking the title more than its honoree (unless personality is considered, perhaps). Regardless, it's a fun romp. In "I Feel a Draft" the horns repeat a simple two-note melody while the rest of the band jumps around, Oliver getting close to nails on the chalkboard again. It's hard to believe that this tune was dedicated to Lacy's close friend and longtime collaborator Mal Waldron.
 
But the group settles down and swings too. "Bone" and "Dutch Masters" reveal some unique scoops and turns to Lacy's writing, reminding us that it might be time to dig into his voluminous catalog of work. Bennink might be known for his wild approach to his drums, which is often as visually wild as it is musically, but these two tracks remind us that he's also an excellent timekeeper who can light a fire under soloists with his carefully placed accents. Karayorgis plays some spiky tri-tone accompaniment behind the soloists in "Bone." It too feels much like Monk, which makes sense since Lacy was one of the legend's biggest advocates. It should also be no surprise that the Whammies end with a Monk tune that's not often heard, "Locomotive," a riff tune which he recorded for Prestige and Columbia. McBride takes the first solo - plucking with more frenzy than this song ever heard from someone like John Ore - before Dijkstra's cool understatement takes over, He begins his own way but remembers Monk's style reincorporating the theme into the solo. Karayoris has the same idea and the album ends triumphantly.
 
According to this album's press release, the Whammies are scheduled to tour the Northeast this month. I could really use a dose of live music like this in person.
http://www.shanleyonmusic.blogspot.com/


De status van sopraansaxofonist en componist Steve Lacy (1934-2004) is de laatste jaren enkel nog toegenomen binnen de wereld van de jazz en improvisatie. Er verschijnen regelmatig ook eerbetonen, die vaak nogal stug en ernstig aanvoelen. Dat het ook anders kan, wordt bewezen door dit internationale kwintet (voor de helft van de stukken uitgebreid tot een sextet), dat een plaat opnam die evenveel uitdaging als feestje is.
Het kan trouwens niet van elk label gezegd worden, maar Driff Records -- van Europese Amerikanen Jorrit Dijkstra en Pandelis Karayorgis -- schiet meteen uit de startblokken met een prachtige release, die op hetzelfde moment al werd aangevuld door een even bijzondere duoplaat van Dijkstra en Jeb Bishop (1000 Words, binnenkort meer daarover). Achter The Whammies, zo genoemd naar een compositie van Lacy, schuilen naast de twee inwijkelingen ook nog trombonist Jeb Bishop, bassist Nate McBride en drummer Han Bennink. Op de helft van de tracks doet violiste Mary Oliver (o.m. bekend van het ICP Orchestra) ook mee.
Zeven van de acht composities zijn van de hand van Lacy, de laatste is er eentje van diens inspiratiebron, Thelonious Monk. Het klinkt meteen allemaal wat losser en speelser dan verwacht. Met een knaller als Bennink, die zelfs nog met Lacy speelde in de jaren zeventig en tachtig, achter de drumkit weet je dat er sowieso geswingd gaat worden, maar de goedlachse, wat rebelse aanpak geldt eigenlijk zowat voor de hele band, en de manier waarop het aan Lester Young opgedragen “Bone” op gang getrokken wordt, zegt al genoeg. Muzikanten verschijnen vanuit het niets, plaatsen accenten en belanden steeds meer in elkaars nabijheid, tot trombone en altsax het thema aankondigen en de molen op gang komt.
Het gaat er allemaal heel losjes aan toe, met trombone en sax die vol zelfvertrouwen rond elkaar trippelen en een aardig stukje swingen, terwijl ook Karayorgis uitpakt met een knap gebroken solo die evenveel traditie als hedendaagsheid uitstraalt. Play The Music Of Steve Lacy is dan ook een plaat die vernuftig de grijze zone tussen traditie en avontuur opzoekt, en een soort van freebop op poten zet die soms niet zo heel erg ver van de geest van de ICP-opnames verwijderd is. Iets ingetogener, maar ook vrijer, gaat het eraan toe in het expressieve “As Usual”, waarin Oliver bijna ontspoort op een bluesy groove en Dijkstra voor het eerste de lyricon, een soort elektronische rietblazer, introduceert.
Het effect van die lyricon geeft de muziek een wat surreële wending, in even sterke mate retro als futurisme. Vooral in de lange intro van “The Wire” leidt het, door het samengaan met de piano, tot een eigenaardig prikkelspel met de overstuurde charme (TILT!) van een combat game in een lunapark. Echt van de pot gerukt wordt het pas in het gepast getitelde “Ducks”, waarin het gekwaak en de “Old MacDonald Had A Farm”-verwijzingen er helemaal een kermis van maken. Dat het allemaal wat goedkoop en gratuit wordt, zou echter een grove misvatting zijn, want bovenal zijn inventiviteit en overgave hier de sleuteleigenschap, wat het duidelijkst blijkt uit de gedreven semichaos van “The Whammies!”
“I Feel A Draft” (voor Lacy-kompaan Mal Waldron) sluit met de zingende combinatie van lyricon en viool weer nauwer aan bij “The Wire”, terwijl het robuuste “Dutch Masters” daarvoor al een spiegelbeeld vormde voor “Bone”. Let vooral ook op de inventieve solo van Bishop, die zich nogmaals profileert als een van de boeiendste trombonisten aan deze kant van Ray Anderson en Roswell Rudd; of Dijkstra’s even gestileerde als eigenzinnige spel op de altsax. Afsluiten gebeurt met Monks “Locomotive”, dat Lacy ook uitvoerde met allerhande bezettingen, en hier de meest conventionele aanpak krijgt. Gewoontjes wordt het echter nooit, daarvoor is deze versie te dartel en aanstekelijk.
Aan Lacy-adepten geen gebrek dezer dagen, maar zelden werd het werk van de meester zo aards, doordacht en toch zo fris benaderd als door The Whammies. Die halen niet enkel de humor van Lacy’s composities naar de voorgrond met een avontuurlijke aanpak vol verrassingen, maar slagen er ook nog eens in een mooi statement te maken dat nergens afglijdt tot een gimmick. Door die opmerkelijke balanceeroefening alleen al is dit een must hear, en niet alleen voor fans van Lacy of de betrokken muzikanten. De mooiste start van het najaar van 2012 was voor Driff Records.
Guy Peters, enola.be, 02 januari 2013


Mit seiner spartanischen Auslotung von Motiven wies Steve Lacy (1934–2004) einen Mittelweg zwischen zyklischer und offener Improvisation. Be­sonders sein ehemaliger Schüler Dijkstra besitzt eine intime Kenntnis seiner Techniken, Philosophie und der wenig bekannten Themen. Aber er erstarrt nie in Respekt. Der Bezug jedes Spielers zum Lac-y­ Musikerkreis ist gewollt: Dijkstra­-Lacy, Karayorgis­-Bobby Few, Jeb Bishop-­Roswell Rudd, Mary Oli­ver­-Irène Aebi etc. Aber unter Dijkstras Führung geht man in der Auswertung des Materials einen tüchtigen Schritt über Lacy hinaus. Dijkstra verwirft Lacys melodische Repetition und Two Beat-­artige Rhythmik nicht ganz, aber färbt z.B. die Melodien dissonant und manchmal hupend ein und kontrastiert und erweitert groovende Teile mit ”freien” und diatonische mit offenen Free Jazz­-Aspekten. Die relativ kurzen Stücke durchlaufen dabei verschie­dene Stadien-geplant oder spontan gefunden. Oder dann bleibt die Melodie unangetastet, aber wird mit allerlei zusätzlichen Interventionen unter­-und übermalt.

Das schlitzohrige Spiel mit trällernden Figuren und der Jazztradition ist äusserst unterhaltsam. Frech wird mit dem Chaos geschäkert, doch dieses ob­siegt nie. Bemerkenswert, wie die Solisten auch in freien Teilen irgendwie den Bezug zum Thema wahren. Ähnlich wie Ray Anderson trumpft Jeb Bi­shop mit bluesiger Eloquenz auf. Auch als Spie­ler zieht Dijkstra ganz verschiedene Register, von glatter Braxton­-artiger Panmodalität bis zu expressiven und kindertrompetenartigen Sounds wie im grotesken ”Ducks”. Einen blockflötenhaften Effekt erzeugt sein geblasener Synthesizer Lyricon. Ka­rayorgis spannt mühelos einen Bogen zwischen Monk und aggressiven Clustern. Beeindruckend, Wie Bassist McBride immer zwischen melodi­schem und rhythmischem Geschehen vermittelt und es ebenso trägt wie transformiert. Und das grosse Plus des Sextetts ist natürlich Han Bennink, der berserkerhaft swingt oder es knallen lässt.

Lacys Vermächtnis ist facettenreich. Die zweite CD enthält mehr Kammermusikalisches, z.B. den Ada­gio-­artigen Track ”Pregnant Virgin” (for Vincent van Gogh), das meisterliche Altsax-­Klavier-­Duo ”Art”, ”Saxovision” (zweimal Altsax) und "Wickets” (Klavier solo). ”Something Special” und ”The Oil” (to S. Freud) und ”Threads” (to A. Einstein) zeigen exemplarisch, wie aus reduziertem Material inter­essante heutige Musik entstehen kann.
Jürg Solothurnmann, Jazz'N'More Switzerland, Nov./Dez. Nr. 6/2013


It's a Lacy sandwich. Sort of. Between the opening and closing slices of "Bone" and Monk's "Locomotive," we get to hear some real free-range chicken, so to speak, said tunes played relatively straight, with clearly recognizable heads and a unity swing. (Throw them into the lunch bucket, too.) And, except for the lurching closer "Locomotive," the remaining seven Steve Lacy cuts have dedications, the bouncy "Bone" going to Lester Young. Selected cuts are part of something larger, based on poems and a painting. It's The Whammies Play The Music Of Steve Lacy.

Lacy's spirit alone is here. He left the planet in 2004. And in his wake are a whole bunch of fans, followers, influencers. Among them are the crew here, young and old, the most obvious link being drummer/all-around inciter Han Bennink, maker of the catchy cover art.

From the opening sounds of Jeb Bishop's probing trombone and Jorrit Dijkstra's popping alto sax, the production of Dijkstra and pianist Pandelis Karayorgis is the sustain of a world that's close by, as if this quintet plus one (violinist/violist Mary Oliver supplying delicious, piquant colors on half the tracks) were in your living room, floors carpeted with sofas that are pillowy and welcoming. This is very conversational music, a music that may pack more of a wallop if you know Lacy's music. The references are there and here, ones that this reviewer likely may have missed. In that sense, the CD rises or falls, connects or maybe sounds like, as another quirky, out-there outing.

All said, Play The Music Of Steve Lacy rewards with repeated listenings. Bennink's drums "typically" sound like something thrown together, his untethered big- band whacking alternating with sensitive, tickling percussives as when he plays foreground/background on a creeping "As Usual" (to Piet Mondrian) and the scampering "The Wire," the leftover swing from "Bone" seemingly permeating the ensemble. "The Wire" (to Albert Ayler) begins with Karayorgis' pummeling piano, which sets the stage for the wheels to fall off this group grope. It's fun, especially as we hear all members wandering in and out of the loosely defined choruses, all of it buttressed byNate McBride's sturdy, dependable and altogether tethered bass (great, in-the-pocket solo on "Locomotive," by the way). "Ducks" (to Ben Webster) is kinda ducky, experimental, picking up where "The Wire" left off, moments of calm maybe making you think of Bean. Maybe. But Bishop does make me think of Roswell Rudd. A bit of swing returns with "Dutch Masters" (to Spike Jones & the City Slickers), Karayorgis' chordals (and solo) touchtones to this very musical number, recalling an early Cecil Taylor in the company of Mr. Lacy. Bishop and Dijkstra can play off each other like rambunctious, outlaying dixielanders from time to time, the solos from "Dutch Masters" that emerge offering some respite from the overall musical clamor. Footnote: Dijkstra's alto spooks as an approximation of Lacy's soprano on "Locomotive."

It's loose-limbed, an energetic appreciation aimed at the spirit of one of jazz's true, ongoing voices, one surmising Steve would approve of the interpretative feel that runs across Play The Music Of Steve Lacy. (The band's name derives from the lively, outlandish tune of the same name; think Fats Navarro, to boot!) These folks are in with both feet, eager hands and hearts. A tasty sandwich, you betcha.

John Ephland, All About Jazz, Nov 2013 link


This label appears to be well thought out from the initial release, THE WHAMMIES: PLAY THE MUSIC OF STEVE LACY [Driff CD 1201] as their approach to post production/packaging has been consistent and distinct. The Whammies [Dijkstra- as/lyricon, Karayorgis-p, Jeb Bishop-tbn, Mary Oliver-vln/viola, Nate McBride-b, Han Bennink-drm] CD is made up of 7 Lacy compositions plus Monk’s, “Locomotive”. The sextet here does a remarkable job of capturing the protein of Lacy’s writing without crowding out the subtly of the writing. Bennink’s drumming is perfect for the buoyancy of Lacy’s compositions as is Oliver’s high pitched and light string work. This is really a group effort and a success. On the Monk composition there is a suggestion of greater group power in the theme but it soon breaks away to individual light, (not weighted) solos afforded great space by Bennink’s subtle presence. Named after an oft played Lacy tune it would be quite wonderful if this group would address other notable composers. Lacy fans might consider this their next “Lacy” purchase.
Robert Rusch, Cadence/Papatamus, July 2016


The Whammies sind ein transkontinentales Bündnis Europa-USA. Man hat sich zum Ziel gesetzt, die Musik des großen Steve Lacy nicht in Vergessenheit geraten zu lassen - play the music of steve lacy, vol. 2. Sehr geschickt und gescheit dringen die Mutikerlnnen zum Naturell von Lacys Musik vor. Deren eckiges Liniement, schlichte Eleganz der Melodik, unmittelbare Klarheit und der vertrackte Swing sind im Kreise der Whammies bestens aufgehoben. Sie erbauen sich aufs Heftigste an den genialen Stücken des ,,Mr. Soprano". Eine würdige, herzerfrischende Hommage an einen wegweisenden Visionär und Stilisten
Stephan Roiss, Jazz Links, January 2014

 

 

 

 

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