Play the Music of Steve Lacy, Vol. 2
The Whammies’ second helping of Steve Lacy interpretations, recorded about a year after the first batch, has a more outwardly exploratory quality than its exuberant predecessor. But the results are equally enjoyable, as you would expect from a superb group of far-flung but close-knit Lacey-ites including alto saxophonist Jorrit Dijkstra, pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and bassist Nate McBride (from Boston), drummer Han Bennink and violinist Mary Oliver (from Amsterdam) and trombonist Jeb Bishop (like McBride a key member of the Chicago scene who has moved back to his native soil, in Bishop’s case North Carolina).
Though bookended by the tonally thrusting “Skirts” and a live-sounding take on “Shuffle Boil,” one of many Monk tunes Lacy spent a lifetime investigating, Vol. 2 spends much of its time playing the inner angles of the music. Oliver and Karayorgis engage in an exquisite interlude on “Feline,” and Dijkstra and Karayorgis, both explosive players, create a haunting moment on “Art,” which Lacy based on a Herman Melville poem. The pianist performs “Wickets,” dedicated to Bobby Timmons, unaccompanied, while Dijkstra overdubs saxes to lyrical and hard-hitting effect on “Saxovision.” Bishop’s stirring Ellingtonian solo on “Pregnant Virgin” is another highlight.
Ultimately, the Whammies are more than the sum of their parts, but they would be a very different band without Bennink, whose extroverted personality gives way here to some of his most elegantly restrained work on record. For all the attention he has drawn as the wild man of the drums, no one swings more decisively or majestically. In coming to terms with Lacy’s highly personal rhythmic concept, Bennink is equally unmatched.