Local jazz goes MK Ultra?

Fake Boys ripped up Luigi’s Fun Garden last week, along with Hanover Saints and Off With Their Heads.

Fake Boys ripped up Luigi’s Fun Garden last week, along with Hanover Saints and Off With Their Heads.


Check out Nebraska Mondays every Monday at Luna’s Café & Juice Bar, 1414 16th Street; 7:30 p.m.; $5-$10 sliding-scale cover.

Magical fare:
Humankind has evolved considerably in the 98 years since Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Rite of Spring made its debut in Paris, triggering catcalls that devolved into a full-on donnybrook. Nowadays, many of us just groove on whatever gets served up.

Monday night at Luna’s Café, the usual Nebraska Mondays fare of jazz improv began with saxophonist Steve Adams and drummer John Hanes facing each other onstage with dueling MacBook Pros and what looked like preamps. Out of the speakers, clacks and pops somewhere between Indonesian gamelan and Carl Stalling’s Looney Tunes sound effects emerged, anchoring a swirl of cetacean bleats, quasi-symphonic flourishes, muffled voices from deep REM sleep, helium-accelerated glossolalia and theremin squeals that crawled out of the speakers and over the audience, which was beginning to fill the small club.

Hmm, I thought. Is this Luna’s, or a replica of Luna’s seven levels beneath CIA headquarters in northern Virginia? Did somebody slip me some vitamin L? And, if so, am I about to morph into a giant cockroach?

Fortunately, it was just two professorial-looking guys working some kind of digital juju on us all, and nobody jumped out a window or turned into a big insect.

What followed was Slumgum, a Los Angeles quartet whose improvisatory thrust didn’t bear down like an onrushing freight train, but instead rolled over the now-packed club like a menu of ever-changing clouds. Tenor saxophonist Jon Armstrong stood in front of the tiny stage pushing air through his horn, not with ’Trane-like urgency, but more feather-light, akin to the singing-in-the-shower voice of a Paul Desmond or Gerry Mulligan. Behind him, Rory Cowal provided liquid tones from an electric piano, Dave Tranchina paced all over the fretboard of his stand-up bass and Trevor Anderies kept thoughtful time on the drums and occasional hand percussion.

The result ebbed and flowed like fog coming in from the beach, then dissipating to reveal a fresh layer of cloud cover above. Whether meshing in ensemble play or laying back to give someone space to solo, Slumgum was superb—and quite magical. What came to mind was that their approach referenced the deep coolness of West Coast jazz sounds from the ’50s—Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker—while adding a lot more fire and flair. If jazz improv is a group of people collaboratively levitating an object above the audience’s heads, Slumgum managed to fly a saucer into the room. The group will return next month for the In the Flow Festival, a don’t-miss event.

Adams, on alto sax, and Hanes took the stage next, with Mike Palmer (Mumbo Gumbo, the Nibblers) on electric bass and Ross Hammond (Nebraska Mondays majordomo, In the Flow organizer) on guitar. Their set was harder edged than Slumgum’s, beginning with a long jam that lurched forward in stops and starts, built up a good headwind with Adams blowing intense squiggles of sax noise that locked horns with Hammond’s rippling guitar notes, with Palmer providing a Memphis soul stew and Hanes—a monster on the kit—dropping weird science on the drums. At the end, Slumgum’s Armstrong grabbed his tenor sax out of the van out front and joined in for the finale.

Perhaps it’s a cliché to call an evening’s musical fare “magical.” But, alakazam, this night sure was.