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The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy

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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.

Originally Published