Jessica Lurie Band
04.12.02 | Siskyou Brewery | Ashland, OR

Her dancing forearm gyrates to the pulsing rhythms wrenching themselves from a golden saxophone I imagine would have inspired past souls to worship false gods. I stand in the front watching her tendons attempt escape from her arms as fingers move faster than mine have the audacity to dream. Gently pummeling the brass orb, glowing blue red and green from the cheap lighting overhead. The colors play tag around the circular end of the sax—swirling themselves into mosaics of hyperactive colors.

How does that little body make those sounds? I thank the pillar against my back for keeping me close to the stage. It catches my body as waves of acid jazz swarm around, pushing me toward the back wall where I’m sure the rest of the brave standing souls have been sandwiched together in an unattractive mold of mouth-gaped-wide-eyed tornado jazz victims. No wonder everyone else is sitting.

Jessica has a partner in crime at this jazz attack. It’s rare to see a single powerful female artist energizing the stage with vibrations from every niche, extremity and crevice of her body (Janis Joplin style) but two is practically unheard of. Actually, I’ve never seen the like of two women dueling in brass, competing to draw sound from deeper depths, turning red without passing out, smiling through the exertions (and I’m the one writing this piece). I’m stating outright that this sort of display is unheard of and shall pass in whispers among music lovers, feminists, and frightened men as the great saxophone myth. And this is where it will remain, for even those who have been enveloped by the acid jazz—feeling it massage every electric impulse traveling our bodies, forcing smiles, madness, dancing and chills all at once—would not be able to testify to it actually happening after the room quiets. I stand here plastered to the pillar, forcing my dry eyes to blink now and then. I know I’ll walk out of the bar where the air’s no longer thick with jazz, painting unseen colors and believe it was an experience on the mind-blowing acid trip level (even though I’ve had no mind-altering substances of any kind). I’ll pass it on to others in dream jargon—creating and perpetuating the myth of the great female saxophone duel.

Their saxophones speak to each other. They argue, attack, gossip, and laugh. So many sounds. Music dancing a dangerous Lambada. They’re too similar, too coarse. Saxophones need softer rhythms to support their range of noises—together is impossible. They’re sure to disintegrate on stage right before my eyes, or at least make someone’s head explode. But it hasn’t happened yet. I feel I’m witnessing a virgin art form of aimed sounds fitting snuggly as they smack against jagged sides and, soft rounded blows fit with sharp, quick puffs—perfectly.

But of course there are other rhythms supporting the duel—egging it on. An upright bass, slide guitar and drum set (though I’m beginning to think it’s really a wood-planked outlet for those with seizure disorders). I hope the drummer has seen “Spinal Tap” and recognizes the danger of spontaneous combustion when a body creates rhythms faster than the mind can process them. The bassist should be wary as well. The deep strums of the upright bass seem to be interjecting themselves between rhythm spurts—not playing their standard role of creating a base rhythm. It’s controlled chaos. Performed with a balance of classical sheet music and improvisation. Though I’m not sure where the bow against the upright fits into the mold. Creating eerie flowing sounds—on a different plane than their plucked friends. At least Ruben knows the level of his talent and has chosen a sturdy and thick instrument; any other strung instrument would surely be close to its snapping point with a bow moving that fast against its face.

My body hasn’t stopped moving, but it’s movements I doubt anyone can see—especially if they’re plastered to the back wall as I suspect. Continuous shaking tides and vibrating chills. But that keeps changing during each sliding guitar solo. My hips start swaying as if they remember belonging to a gypsy and the rest has no choice but to follow—here I go.

Reanna Feinberg
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 4/28/02]

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