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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Whammies - Play the Music of Steve Lacy vol. 3: Live (Driff Records, 2014) ****

By Stefan Wood

The Whammies are a specialized jazz improvisational group. As the title of their albums obviously indicate, they are a group dedicated to the music and spirit of Steve Lacy, though they are not slavish to the compositions. In a way, they do for Lacy what Lacy himself did for Thelonious Monk: taking their love of jazz, of its wide ranging abilities and possibilities, integrating it into their own sensibilities, and presenting it to a new generation of listeners.

This is an all star group of musicians: Han Bennink, Jerrit Dijkstra, Pandelis Karayorgis, Jeb Bishop, Mary Oliver, and Jason Roebke. Like the other two volumes, the tracks comprise mostly of Lacy's compositions, allowing for one Monk composition. What is different here is that this is a live session, earlier this year in Padova, Italy. The music is well executed, tight, and jubilant. Bennink has a firm hand on the tiller over the rhythm section as they charge through the album's eight tracks, keeping everything lively and everyone on target.

"Bumpers" is the dynamic opener, revealing the group's large band sound, certainly larger than one would expect from a sextet. It is a bouncy, free form swinging track, having echoes of Monk's early works. "Snorts/Papa's Midnite Hop" is more aggressive, the group swinging their sounds round and round like a hammer throw, though instead of an inevitable release they pull back and switch gears, moving from swing to free bop. Dijkstra and Oliver really shine here, Dijkstra with a bold, alto tone, and Oliver with a precise and exacting violin sound that percolates on top of the others.

If Bennink has the tiller, Robeke has a firm hand on the bottom, his bass navigating through the torrents and shifting winds of the brass and violin. "Letter/Palermo-Orgosolo" is a moodier piece, alto and violin working together as they evoke a contemplative mood over Karayorgis' relaxed piano playing. "Stations" is a love letter to Monk, a vibrant, off key and jagged rhythm piece with Dijkstra fluidly leading the charge, alto more biting and angular than Charlie Rouse, but no less effective. "The Kiss" has Dijkstra utilizing the lyricon, an electronic wind instrument, and in this work it falls almost on the same register as the violin, as the two engage in some very abstract playing. Bishop's muted trombone and Karayorgis' accented piano playing lends to the minimalism of this piece. "Revolutionary Suicide" is solid hard free bop, with Karayorgis's piano being showcased, with a strong solo at the beginning then maintaining with the bass and drums a hard driving pace for Dijkstra and Bishop to play on top of. "Sublimation"(Tribute to Sun Ra) is a blast off into outer space, lyricon charting the stars, violin the ship, and the rest being the interplanetary music. It is the outstanding track on the album.

The album ends with "Hornin In," the lone Monk composition, with Bennink leading with a Blakey like drum solo, followed by Oliver and Karayoris with the theme, emphasis by Dijkstra and Bishop. Running just under an hour, and feeling much quicker than that, The Whammies' Play the Music of Steve Lacy vol 3:Live is a fun, well played romp that not only pays tribute to jazz masters past and but also is a celebration of what jazz can still offer today. Recommended.

Watch a recent concert date of the Whammies:

You can buy this album from Instantjazz