By Paul Acquaro
Steve Lacy's music seems to be cropping up often in the Free Jazz Blog, from the group Ideal Bread (here and here) to a set of recent Lacy issues and reissues on Emanem and Clean Feed, and now The Whammies.
The Whammies' debut album, Plays the Music of Steve Lacy, is a captivating interpretation of the saxophonist's music. During the course of the album the group delivers their take Lacy's own somewhat quirky, avant garde and always melodic tunes. In addition, the group pays homage to Lacy's great inspiration, Thelonious Monk.
The Whammies (named after a Lacy tune) is an international and intergenerational quintet. The group is Chicago's Jeb Bishop on trombone and Nate McBride on bass; Boston's (via Amsterdam) Jorrit Dijkstra on saxophonist and the band's leader, and Pandelis Karayorgis on piano; Holland's Han Bennink on drums and guest violinist Mary Oliver (Amsterdam via California).
As for the music, tunes like 'Bone (to Lester Young)' and 'Dutch Masters (to Spike Jones and the City Slickers)' are fun and energetic, showcasing not only Lacy's compositional approach but also the current musician's contemporary interpretations, making for an entertaining and engaging listen. The Whammies do not shy away from some vintage analog electronics either. 'I Feel a Draft (to Mal Waldron)' begins with light treatment, then building in a swirling manner until the group reaches a dense crush of texture and pulse. An electronics solo graces 'The Wire (to Albert Ayler)' like a shoot out between R2-D2 and a Skeeball game. This all contrasts delightfully with 'The Whammies! (to Fats Navarro)', which just explodes in an out-pouring of counter melodies from Bishop and Oliver.
The closing song 'Locomotive', from Monk's pen, features Karayorgis' piano. The tunes playful dissonance and catchy melody closes out the album and is a perfect ending to this spirited and enjoyable work-out.