Bad Luck
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Bad Luck

Seattle, Washington, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2007 | INDIE

Seattle, Washington, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2007
Duo Jazz Experimental

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"Bad Luck: Two"

When Bad Luck comes in the shape of drummer Christopher Icasiano and saxophonist Neil Welch, it can be a pretty good thing. They met at the University of Washington and, driven by an interest in improvised music, began a musical partnership. Both are fearless navigators of the unknown and communicate with an intuitive sense of empathy. Their music takes them across a wide panorama, over which they forge acoustic unions or use electronics to expand the dimension,all aspects given free rein on the two-disc Two. Either way they have something interesting to say.

The first disc, Bats, has seven improvised tracks that run for just over 43 minutes, culled from a six-hour recording session. Welch sticks to his saxophones, often unleashing a fiery fusillade of spirals. He holds nothing back when imposing a welter of sounds in ramped-up intensity, or in a seemingly forlorn cry. His freewheeling excursions are well met by Icasiano, who is no slouch as he churns out a whirling bed of rhythm. To give unfettered rein without vision would be pushing the boundaries out of focus. Welch balances his thrusts with the heavy barrages countermanded by a more calculated advance that serves to give the music a greater presence and power. This works particularly well on "Flare" and "Salt," the latter actually carrying a discernible melody.

Josephine, the second CD, opens the door to more instruments, a greater reference to melody, and quite a contrast in mood. The glockenspiel casts a crystal sound on "Hourglass" before it is met in soft interweaving by the bass clarinet. Welch articulates "Friend & Foe" with feeling, as he lingers on the beautiful melody, adding occasional grain as he breaks the line before folding it in a soft blanket. Icasiano makes it all the more germane, playing the beat against the grain in this top-notch offering. The rest of the music stirs different embers, from the quicksilver lines of "Two" to the initial expansive silence of "Singing Bowl" that finds the reason for its existence in the gradual dawning of sound.

Bad Luck frees up a lot of ideas and spins them into appealing tales. - All About Jazz


"Bad Luck, Great Album"

Bad Luck is free jazz at its best, the Seattle duo of Christopher Icasiano on drums and glockenspiel and Neil Welch on saxophones, bass clarinet and singing bowls, playing through what’s sometimes a maze of loops and effects. Their new album, simply titled Two, is a sprawling double-disc set. The first, titled Bats (as in completely batty, maybe?), is pure improvisation; the second, Josephine, an intriguing mix of compositions and inspired jamming. It’s amazing how interesting all this is, especially since much of the instrumentation is limited to just sax and drums. And as much as this often goes way out on a limb, it’s also very tight. When free jazz is good, it tends to be because of the interplay and chemistry between the musicians, and while that’s a factor here, this album is more about carrying out assigned roles. Typically, this means Welch as bad cop and Icasiano as the opposite, but not always.

Bats is assaultive right off the bat, with noxious blasts of tenor sax exhaust over endless machine-gun drum volleys. Culled from a marathon six-hour studio session, it seems to be a theme and variations, simple ones that bludgeon the listener – ugly as much of this is, it’s blissfully adrenalizing. And Icasiano isn’t merely playing rolls around the kit – he came into this with a plan. Midway through, he locks in with the sax (foreshadowing what’s to come on the second disc), then methodically bludgeons his way through Olympic leapfrogging sprints and a couple of lethal hailstorms. Meanwhile, Welch blares and blasts, often working octave motifs bar after anguished bar. Finally, on the sixth segment, he finds some peace, launching into a cheery blues riff that he runs over and over while Icasiano muffles his full-throttle enthusiasm. And then he goes for a full-bore surf rumble as Welch takes his time rising to meet the wave. The concluding track, playfully titled Lure, has Welch establishing something approximating a melody over Icasiano’s casually stampeding attack.

The suite on the second cd is a masterpiece of aggressively creepy noir jazz. If Josephine is to be taken at face value, she’s a complicated girl, going from lively to practically comatose to extremely agitated, generally when least expected. It opens with a ghostly, spacious, skeletal glockenspiel piece and then the menacing Friends or Foe. Welch sets the stage with a macabre sax loop, drums moving slowly upward with a murderous deliberateness, evil insistent foghorn sax eventually taking the foreground. The title track initially follows as a contrast, sparsely atmospheric sax lines woven together, expanding to a catchy, staggeringly funky hook, Icasiano picking up the rhythm and running with it. From there they go up, and down, and back again. It’s quite a ride.

The two lock together on the next cut with a jaunty bass clarinet hook, a haze of overtones lingering in the background. True North is all wariness and suspense, with a hint of a fanfare, a deliciously slow crescendo as the drums prowl their way in from the outskirts, only to be sent back out again as Welch goes rippling and thoughtful with a few screams and sputters. The cheeriest thing here is aptly titled Menagerie; they follow that with a somber piece simply titled Singing Bowl that builds to a dirge, then to absolute terror, the sax screaming into the abyss for help. The final cut, Architect revisits the Friend or Foe theme, juxtaposing morbid, stately rhythm against more of Welch’s anguished sax, finally winding down with an elegant, simple drum outro straight out of Joy Division. You like intense? Check out this album. It’s out now on adventurous Seattle label Table and Chairs Music. - Lucid Culture


"Bad Luck: Bloodroot"

Available as a download only, Bad Luck's Bloodroot is a fine example of the extremely powerful and virtuosic, cutting-edge music coming out of Seattle these days. Sure, drummer Christopher Icasiano and saxophonist Neil Welch make an unholy racket for much of the track's generous twenty-plus minutes duration, yet a determined sense of focus is quite palpable: this is freely improvised music with a strong sense of direction.

Welch possesses a raw, cavernous, unforgiving tenor sound that brings both Peter Brötzmann and David S. Ware to mind. He uses various electronic effects quite judiciously, sounding at various times like a subway train coming to an unexpected halt, amplified computer innards, or an angelic choir announcing the beginning of the apocalypse. His bass clarinet can also be heard lurking subliminally beneath the layers of effects and thundering drums.

Icasiano is similarly resourceful, using a variety of mallets, sticks, and other implements to create subtly shifting backdrops—sometimes grooving, sometimes stumbling, sometimes hanging suspended above Welch's agitated tenor.

Bloodroot is intense stuff indeed, but somehow it's also not difficult listening. A fast twenty minutes worth of raw spontaneity. - All About Jazz


Discography

Bad Luck (2009)
Two (2010)
Bloodroot EP (2012)
Three (2014)

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Bio

Bad Luck is a 10-year collaboration between Seattle-based musicians Chris Icasiano on drums and Neil Welch on saxophone/electronics. With four albums under their belt, Bad Luck has created an incredibly diverse array of music — no small feat in the heavily trodden world of drum/saxophone duos. Their melodies, improvisations and compositions are constructed from the ground up, creating a band sound much larger than the sum of its parts. Icasiano and Welch began their collaboration as students at the University of Washington.

Bad Luck formed out of late night drum and saxophone marathon sessions exploring Coltrane/Rashied Ali style duos and jazz standards. It was after adding live electronics that the unique sound profile of Bad Luck began to take shape. They were named the “Outside Jazz Group of 2011” by Earshot Jazz Magazine, and their album Two was named “Album of the Year 2012” by the New York Jazz Review.

They are Table & Chairs Music recording artists with 4 albums to their credit: Bad Luck (2009), Two (2010) the Bloodroot EP (2012), and Three (2014).

Welch and Icasiano are founding members of the famed Racer Sessions avant-garde performance series which takes place each week in Seattle. They are also founding members of the cutting-edge record label Table & Chairs Music, which operates as a not-for-profit record label that gives 100% of its proceed to artists.

Bad Luck tours extensively, having shared the stage with local bands throughout the US as well as major figures in improvised music such as the saxophone legend Roscoe Mitchell, and performers Cuong Vu, Andrew D’Angelo, Wayne Horvitz, Dave King (The Bad Plus) and Chris Speed.

Band Members