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Former Chicagoan Weasel Walter hasn’t exactly mellowed out since he moved to Oakland a few years ago, but the notorious provocateur has loosened up. Perhaps it was the change of scenery or good old-fashioned age, but the Weez has become less doctrinaire and rigid than he was during his Chicago days, whether that means retiring his horned buzz cut and war paint or returning to the high velocity free jazz he started out playing in the earliest days of his long-lived Flying Luttenbachers, when folks like Hal Russell, Ken Vandermark, and Jeb Bishop were members.
He recently released a new CD by the Weasel Walter Quartet called Revolt Music on his Ug/Explode label and it's unabashedly free jazz, albeit hyper-charged and relentless. (Some things don’t change.) Walter kind of sounds like a Sunny Murray lp played at 45 RPM, all stuttering kick drum and careening cymbal splash, occasionally so free of space it sounds like a drone. A number of saxophonists appear on the album’s eight tracks--including former Chicagoan Aram Shelton--while bassists Damon Smith and Randy Hunt fill out the group, laying down plucked and bowed lines that writhe within the maelstrom, flailing like downed power cables. Famed guitar master Henry Kaiser makes a cameo on one track with a ferociously corrosive solo. There's interplay going on, but at such high speeds it’s often hard to make it out.
Walter is still playing “brutal prog” with the current incarnation of the Luttenbachers. The recent Cataclysm added Orthrelm’s Mick Barr to the line-up and included, among other stuff, a version of Messiaen’s “L’Ascension." But on his current US tour--which, oddly, skips Chicago--he’s playing free jazz in numerous incarnations. For years Walter complained about being ostracized by the Chicago free jazz community, but he’s certainly managed to find heavy-duty companions recently. Among the people he’s playing with on the tour is former Sun Ra saxophonist Marshall Allen, Kaiser, ROVA saxophonist Jon Raskin, and bassist Lisle Ellis. Could a Chicago reconciliation/love fest be far off?