Sat., Jan. 31 Bean Scene
Jessica Lurie and band heavy on improvisation in exciting night of jazz
I raced over to the Bean Scene from downtown Chico, knowing I’d probably missed the opening numbers of the Jessica Lurie Ensemble. I walked into a packed house enthralled by the sonic excitement bursting from the stage. Avant-garde jazz saxophonist Lurie was tearing it up with her band mates: the insanely talented Nels Cline on guitar (with various effects), the adorable and completely kick-ass upright bassist Todd Sickafoose, and the always smiling, always fantastic drummer, Scott Amendola.
Lurie’s wild sax playing on the song I walked in on, which Cline played off of with his madly creative guitar fills, reminded me of early ‘80s experimental saxophonist James White (of James White and the Blacks/"Contort Yourself” fame). During Cline’s solo, Lurie’s horn wailed over the top of it. The volume came down and the song ended with a bowed bass. The song just rose up delicately from its wild path and floated away. Stunning.
Lurie sang (with a static/old-time-radio vocal effect) a very fine and interesting version of “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby,” made famous as part of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, accompanied by Cline on lap slide and Sickafoose on further beautifully bowed bass. Amendola entered the song with a spacey-sounding shaker and then slowly sneaked back in on drums. Their mixing of bluegrass with experimental jazz was simply fantastic.
Lurie played flute on one song, sounding deceptively simple at first and ending up a madwoman. At the end of another she imitated with her voice a high screechy sax, which Cline then imitated. I had to look up from my notes to see that it was her voice and not a horn.
Lurie and her companions were able to move from what at times sounded like musical chaos into a super cool groove and back again, but never the same thing twice. They were fearless, in the moment and able to pull fantastic musical ideas from the atmosphere and from each other.