With ten years performing together as the duo Bad Luck, Chris Icasiano (drums) and Neil Welch (tenor saxophone) continue to strain the limits of the duo format. With the release of their new album Four (their 4th, natch), Bad Luck is reining in their longform free improvisations a bit, but without losing any of their epic energy.
Performing live in the KNKX studios Friday, Bad Luck showed what a decade's partnership sounds like: at times free improvisation, as tight as math rock the next. The extra-sensory musical communication between Icasiano and Welch showed how intimately each player knows his partner's style.
This is not music for the timid. Welch fairly wails into his horn, with electronic amplification and effects pedals creating a unique sonic soundscape that evoke transmissions from another world. Icasiano's avalanche of rhythm keeps the sound of Bad Luck anchored to the earth, while driving the tempo in various directions. If Bad Luck was a movie director, they'd be closer to David Lynch than Steven Spielberg.
Not alone in the world of drum and sax duos, Bad Luck pushes beyond jazz styles to encorporate American folk music, hip-hop, metal and many other genres. Indeed, the duo is committed to performing on bills that represent a wide range of musical styles. They also strive to represent diverse gender identities at their concerts, a desire to reflect the diverse community that inspires their creativity.
Icasiano and Welch are key figures in the Northwest music community, helping to found the wide-ranging music performed at the Cafe Racer Sessions, as well as the independent local label Table and Chairs Music. It's fair to say the inspiration from and within this community feed directly into the music of Bad Luck.
As listeners of The New Cool know well, the younger generation of musicians are as influenced by classic jazz, where Icasiano and Welch both formed their musical roots, as by the miriad genres that are available to listeners at the touch of a button. These are musicians who advocate for music itself, no matter how you play it. Bad Luck may not sound like jazz to some ears, but no other genre comes to mind. In fact, Bad Luck leaves the idea of genres in the dust, but wouldn't be possible without the freedom of jazz.
Check out the new album Four and celebrate with Chris and Neil at the Bad Luck release party at the Columbia City Theater Friday, the 28th. You'll hear these two on The New Cool this week with pianist Rich Pellegrin's quintet, also featuring trumpeter Scott Morning and bassist Evan Flory-Barnes.
The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5pm, hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.