He's back: Weasel Walter plays Chicago/RIP Kenny Wheeler | Bleader

He's back: Weasel Walter plays Chicago/RIP Kenny Wheeler

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Cellular Chaos
  • courtesy of the artists
  • Cellular Chaos
Rockford native Weasel Walter has always had an uncomfortable relationship with the free jazz that first propelled him onto local stages with the earliest version of his band the Flying Luttenbachers, which included its namesake Hal Russell (ne Hal Luttenbacher) on drums. The multi-instrumentalist's searing interest in musical extremes of various stripes has always trumped his passion for any single approach, so over the decades in Chicago, Oakland, and New York, his projects have snapped violently between in-your-face takes on free jazz, post-no wave atonal rock, and metal. In recent years he's been devoting his energy to the quartet Cellular Chaos, which arrives in town for a show Sunday night at Township. The current lineup of the band includes a couple of excellent musicians known more for their jazz bona fides than their skill at making loud, ugly, grinding art-rock, but that's exactly what they do under Walter's aegis.

The group's eponymous 2012 album features Walter on guitar, using the tools and colors of Lower East Side New York noise rock during the late 70s and early 80s in service of flaying grooves that meld blast beats with piledriver punk rhythms. The beats are supplied with impressive precision and boundless energy by Marc Edwards, a drummer who made his name working with free-jazz heavies like Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware (he's played regularly with Walter in free-jazz contexts, too, but in Cellular Chaos it's all about control). The bassist on the record was Ceci Moss, but for the last year Shayna Dulberger, a terrific upright bassist who sticks exclusively to electric here, has handled those chores. A female singer called Admiral Grey delivers hectoring vocals that occasionally remind me of the early work of Lydia Lunch (8-Eyed Spy, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks), with whom Walter has been playing lately, with a touch of Lene Lovich's wildly swooping range. Below you can check out "Adviser," a track from the album, followed by video of a full Brooklyn performance from last summer (with interim bassist Kelly Moran) that shows off the unhinged antics of Admiral Grey and the band's relentless energy.


The brilliant trumpeter Kenny Wheeler died yesterday at the age of 84 at a nursing home in London, where the Canadian native had lived for the last six decades. Few jazz musicians shared his generosity of spirit and nonchalant range; over his lengthy career he moved easily from working in free-improvisation circles to embracing jazz tradition, always comporting himself with dignity and playing with compassion and restraint. Few have worked with such a diverse cast of collaborators—Wheeler's included John Dankworth, Bill Russo, John Stevens's Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Stan Tracey, Evan Parker, Tubby Hayes, Mike Westbrook, Tony Oxley, Anthony Braxton, Globe Unity Orchestra, and Dave Holland, among countless others. In recent years he showcased his more lyric side on an extended series of gorgeous recordings for the Italian CAM label, but he continued to occasionally work in freely improvised settings.

Today's playlist:

Various artists, C'est Chic! French Girl Singers of the 1960s (Ace)
Kenny Dorham, Afro-Cuban (Blue Note)
Pete Brown, Peter the Great (Bethlehem, Japan)
Francis Bebey, African Electronic Music 1975-1982 (Born Bad)
James Govan, Wanted: the Fame Recordings (Kent)

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