The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy - Jorrit Dijkstra
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The Whammies Play the Music of Steve Lacy

Jorrit Dijkstra  |  alto sax, lyricon, analog electronics

Jeb Bishop  |  trombone

Mary Oliver  |  violin, viola

Pandelis Karayorgis  |  piano

Nate McBride or Jason Roebke  |  bass

Han Bennink  |  drums

The Whammies, featuring an all-star cast of musicians from the Amsterdam, Chicago, and Boston improvisation scenes, focus on re-interpreting selections from the late saxophone iconoclast Steve Lacy’s vast archive of compositions. Since it’s founding in 2012, the group has played tours in the United States and Europe, and has released three CDs with both Lacy’s more and lesser known works. Critic Troy Collins (All About Jazz) has called the first Whammies CD: “…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.”

Originally from Amsterdam, saxophonist and bandleader Jorrit Dijkstra has long lived in Boston, where he has found common musical ground with pianist and co-founder Pandelis Karayorgis. Bassist Jason Roebke (who now replaces Nate McBride) and trombonist Jeb Bishop are stalwarts of the Chicago jazz community, noted for their tenures with groups like People, Places and Things, and the Vandermark 5. Dijkstra and Karayorgis have both collaborated extensively with Chicago musicians in groups such as The Flatlands Collective, Pillow Circles, Duo Karayorgis/Vandermark, and the Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet. The éminence grise is legendary 72-year-old Dutch drummer Han Bennink, who played with Lacy in the 1980s. Bennink’s bandmate from the Instant Composer’s Pool (ICP), violinist Mary Oliver, adds another “Dutch jazz” flavor to the mix. “Han’s music is so deep in my roots as an improviser growing up in Amsterdam,” explains Dijkstra. “I feel deeply connected with his type of swing and his Dadaïst touch.”
Dijkstra first saw Lacy and Bennink play together in 1983 in the Netherlands, when Dijkstra was a teenage saxophone student. “I was charmed by the clarity of Lacy’s sound, and the simple elegance of his melodies,” he remembers. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to become an improvising musician.” Lacy’s book Findings later became Dijkstra’s “saxophone bible.” When Lacy joined the faculty of New England Conservatory in 2002, Dijkstra jumped at the chance to take lessons with him. “His story is so different from other saxophone teachers – ‘Let’s go play with the ducks in the pond.’ Lacy taught me that you can make music out of anything.”
Dijkstra has been researching the vast archive of over 500 scores and notes Lacy left behind when he died in 2004. Lacy’s original dedications were rarely noted on album jackets or even in liner notes, but give insight into Lacy’s compositional process. “The dedications and performance instructions seem to give clues in a story with multiple layers of meaning. These clues can be applied to the arrangement, the improvising and even to the location the piece is played in.” Dijkstra says. The focus is mostly on the material from Lacy’s more experimental period in the 1970’s. “These earlier pieces contain dense, repetitive counterpoint writing, that lends itself very well to open-form improvisation and surprises on the spot, in my opinion”, says Dijkstra. The Whammies’ book includes several pieces that Lacy never recorded, and others that were only recorded as a solo version. After two years of playing, The Whammies have developed an open, “instant arranging” approach towards Lacy’s source material, in which each member has the freedom to introduce backgrounds, solos, smaller groupings, or the next tune, to move the music forward.
The Whammies’ first two CDs have been received with much critical acclaim in the international press. “The Whammies honor their source by performing his music in such a way that you know where it comes from, but unlike anyone else I’ve ever heard cover Lacy. In doing so, they set the bar pretty high for whoever comes next, and I expect there will be plenty to follow,” wrote Bill Meyer in Dusted Magazine. And Peter Margasak writes in the Chicago Reader: “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.” Stuart Broomer pens in the New York City Jazz Record: “Its spirit, too, is close to a Lacy ideal: the music is bounced, jostled, cajoled, pushed and pulled along by the superb rhythm section of bassist Nate McBride and drummer Han Bennink.”

 

Picture by Ziga Koritnik

CDs

The Whammies

Driff CD1201

Jorrit_Dijkstra_whammies2

The Whammies Vol. 2

Driff CD1303

Jorrit_Dijkstra_1401_Whammies3

The Whammies Vol. 3 Live

Driff CD1401

Press Quotes

First volume was terrific, and the new one, a new session (not leftovers from the first), carries on. A- Tom Hull  

(…) one of the most impressive ensembles currently working. Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG, July 2013  
[The Whammies] breathe new life into Lacy’s music, not consign it to history. (…) the kind of music to set pulses racing and juices flowing. John Eyles, The Squid’s Ear, January 2013  
A fine group of musicians who dig deep into Lacy’s more unusual repertoire (…). Lively, well produced, and a fine selection of material. François Couture, Monsieur Délire, Journal d’écoute / Listening Diary 2013-07-26  
The Whammies honor their source by performing his music in such a way that you know where it comes from, but unlike anyone else I’ve ever heard cover Lacy. In doing so, they set the bar pretty high for whoever comes next, and I expect there will be plenty to follow. Bill Meyer (Dusted Magazine)  
Voted onto the 2012 Jazz Journalists Association ‘Best of’ Lists by Francis Davis, Dec 2012
Voted among top 5 Tributes in the New York City Jazz Record, January 2013 issue.  
It’s a doozy. … 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. Peter Margasak (Chicago Reader, Nov 2012)  
While Lacy distilled everything to clear lines whose endings could be endlessly redrawn, The Whammies delight in disrupting his melodic progressions. Bill Meyer (The Wire Magazine)  
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. Troy Collins, All About Jazz, November 2012
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  
“Inspired sextet” A- Tom Hull, Dec 2012  
A vivid re-examination of some of Lacy’s creative output. Doug Simpson, Audiophile Audition, December 2012  
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. Victor Aaron, Something Else! November 2012  
An exceptional debut release that makes one anxious to see what will be pulled out of their trick bag next! Brent Black, @CriticalJazz.com, October 2012  
Great fun! The Whammies interpret Lacy their own way, without being unduly reverent to the compositions or seeking to recreate the original versions. … The kind of music to set pulses racing and juices flowing. John Eyles, The Squid’s Ear, January 2013  
Music of a very high order. … Don’t miss this one. Grego Applegate Edwards, gapplegate music review, 2/21/13  
“well-listened, deeply collaborative music … Lacy would have been pleased.” Simon White, JazzTimes  
The Whammies are a modern-day jazz supergroup, from the drum kit on out. Cult Montreal  
“One of 2012’s underheard delights.” Richard Gehr, Village Voice (The Ten Best Concerts in New York This Weekend, 1/18/13)