Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest seven months ago I have been fortunate to find a band that sets itself apart from the rest. This tireless threesome looks and - at the beginning - sounds like a jazz band, but the places they take you, will leave you no doubt as to their true intentions. This stuff is “out,” constantly ebbing and flowing improves that weave their way through these three conduits until the sound comes out of the amps. They are truly not to be missed.
The Living Daylights - Dale Fanning on drums, Arne Livingston on bass, and Jessica Lurie on sax, played a Sunday night show at "The Loft" on September 1st as their last hometown show before embarking on a national tour later in September and as the finale to the bumbershoot weekend parties at the loft. Now usually if I am leaving my place in Portland at 11:15 p.m. – and running a little late - for a show that is in Seattle, then I shouldn’t even bother going. But when it comes to the schedule of The Loft, which usually starts the music around 2am when the bars get out, I was running right on time.
As I walked up the stairs at 2:15 a.m., I saw the band setting up their gear. In addition to the usual arsenal there was also a keyboard which would be used throughout the night by Dara Quinn of Rockin' Teenage Combo (bad name for a really good band). The crowd filled in, at maximum there were probably 80-100 people, and at around 2:30 the music began. I was immediately impressed by Dara’s ability to fit in with the LD as I have only seen them previously as a three piece. Jessica quickly called a guest trombonist to the stage who played with the band for most of the set. This band amazes me as they begin with what appears to be a standard jazz song and then they extend it and change it organically until it ends, usually a half hour later. I am dead serious, the first set, which I believe consisted of all of four songs, went until 4:15. Each song was easily twenty minutes to thirty minutes. In all fairness I do not know the names of any of the songs. They are all instrumentals, mostly originals, and every one can be a stepping off point.
This first set saw Jessica taking a slightly more laid back approach as she shared licks with both the trombonist and Dara on keys. What impressed me most about this set was Dale, who seems to improve each time I see him. I could see him mouth to Jessica after one song “I didn’t think I could do that”, and what he probably meant by “that” was everything he had done for the last fifteen minutes. That’s the kind of music we are talking about, close your eyes, let your eyeballs roll in the back of your head and just go off, whether you are in the band or in the audience it seemed to be the same approach for everyone. Also of note was a fairly large lighting set-up (for someone’s apartment that is), including a computer projecting images on a drop cloth behind the band that were absolutely amazing.
At set break, as I stood in awe of what I had just seen, I noticed a conversation that I knew I had to get in on. Dale was standing next to me talking to my current favorite drummer Kevin Sawka (Siamese). After exchanging hellos and telling Dale what a great set I had just seen him play, talk moved to Kevin who said he was getting pumped for his gig at Bumbershoot the next day, and how he hoped people would make it out for their set. The set was at noon and at this point only a few hours away. I asked him where else he would be playing in the next couple days, and he said at bumbershoot he was going to be drumming at the break dancing circle after his band’s set, and that he was very excited for Siamese’s opening slot for LTJ Bukem in Portland the next Friday. In case you don’t know, his band Siamese plays some of the sickest live improvised techno out there, check them out.
The second set began and there was a guest guitar player, all I know is that his name is Leif, and that is assuming that he was telling the truth. This guy played very reggae influenced guitar, which I really liked although I could see why some thought it was a little repetitive. I liked that it forced the LD to play in a style that I haven’t seen from them before. The stuff that Jessica came up with was beautiful, and transported everyone from one surreal scene to an island scene as the sun outside was starting to come up. The guitar player stayed for the whole set, and even with six on stage, not that there was an actual stage or anything, the band still sounded together and driven. It was Arne on bass that was holding it all together. I usually am most impressed with the wide range of noises that emanate from his bass, and at their complex beauty, but in a six-piece band he did what he had to do to hold it all together, and it was damn good. The set was mostly all island influenced, and overall a little more relaxed then the first set as the band probably was having a little more “fun,” not feeling the need to push the musical limits like set one. Everyone was now floating and content to fill the night air outside, with these beautiful lilting jams.
What amazes me the most is that the LD never fall back on what they already know how to do. They push themselves and it almost always comes off sounding great. They are afraid of no guest, and variations and surprises can only make them better. All the while achieving a psychedelic jazz that hasn’t been touched since Miles’ Live/Evil. Period.
The Living Daylights embark on a national tour September 21 in Chicago, and Jessica will be playing with all her various musical compadres in NYC throughout the month. Go ahead, it feels real good.
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