Typhanie Monique was stoked. Booty Movement Coalition usually plays the last Monday of every month; but they'd missed July, so there was two months worth of pent-up funk in Monique's bloodstream, and she was showing it. As she prowled the floor at Martyr's just prior to the show, she left an almost visible trail of static electricity. Cross behind her, and your digital watch might short out.
For me, it was a little disorienting. Just one week prior, I'd seen Monique in her other Monday-night role -- as hostess of the monthly jam session at Jazz Showcase. She was slinky in a short black skirt with ridiculously high heels -- nosebleed heels -- and she moved across the stage in a kind of insouciant shimmy. I arrived late, but as soon as I walked in it was clear it was already a crazy night -- there was, as Monique later put it, "mad talent" on hand. She gathers soloists on the stage like an alchemist choosing ingredients from the table of elements, and that night she pretty much blew up the lab. It was pure sonic assault, in the most gorgeous way imaginable. One of the guest trumpeters had killed the crowd with a head-spinning version of Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High," and after he left the stage, Monique -- taking care of some business at her table -- idly let loose with the pair of eighth-notes that begin the piece; and was echoed across the room by someone completing the measure. Monique looked up and started the second bar; again, the call-and-response. Bebop used to be revolutionary; now it's community. It's communion. It's in our DNA. Monique put a wrap on the night with her own version of Horace Silver's "Song for My Father," which basically burned to a crisp whatever hadn't already been pulled down. I made my way out amidst the smoldering embers.
But. But. That was jazz Typhanie. Tonight, at Martyr's, we had funk Typhanie. And while equally powerful, these are two entirely different personae. "Jazz," Monique once said, "is thinking." And the artists who wreaked havoc at the Jazz Showcase did so with the lethal precision of a physicist splitting the atom; it was all about control -- riding the beast. In funk, however, you are the beast, and God help anyone who tries to straddle you. Jazz is Apollonian; funk, Dionysian. And the Typhanie Monique who fronts the BMC is a far cry from her slinky jazz twin; she's a Bacchante in blue jeans, a thoroughly modern maenad.
Any BMC event is basically a high-wire act: every single note is improvised. There's no rehearsal, no charts, no set list. And the group boasts a fluid membership of just about every improvisational wizard on the Chicago scene. Tonight, however, was special because it marked the return of the original BMC lineup: Lamar Jones on bass, Scott Tallarida on guitar, Kaylan Pahtak on percussion, Rick Gehrenbeck on keys, Victor Garcia on trumpet, K'hari Parker on drums, Craig Sunken on trombone, and JAQ on beatbox. With typical generosity, however, the reunion accommodated some guests performers: Chris Green, an almost impossible nimble sax player, and Jay Johnston, a singer with the kind of feral cry in his voice that makes the hair on your nape go all static-clingy.
The pairing on Monique and JAQ as frontmen is a happy one, because they represent opposing principles; Monique has the kind of presence that creates its own geography -- the room takes shape around her -- whereas JAQ, limber as a sock monkey, is always darting out of your line of vision. If the law of gravity were just a liiiitle less stringent he'd go pinging right off into the stratosphere. And the astonishing repertoire of effects he produces -- from percussive beats so profound you feel them resonating in your tail bone, to ear-piercing birdlike cries -- embellish and embroider Monique's reality-shredding wail as it ascends and descends to the far extremes of the almost-not-entirely-mortal scale.
In fact tonight Monique, rapping freestyle, called JAQ "the brother I should have had," and in a later number the two threw down the refrain: "We got a lot to say." Hey, no kidding. But they weren't the only ones. Every player on the stage took the chance to cut loose, and the result was -- well, the BMC says it best, in their own inimitable boilerplate: "phat, funky, beat-droppin', improv-stylin', horn-wailin', low-end bumpin', power-throatin', tribal-groovin', never-knowin'-what's-coming-out-next." Pretty much covers it. The word "thermonuclear" should probably factor in there somewhere, but I'll give it a pass.
During the break I hooked up with some people I knew in the crowd: Janice Hughes and Suneetha Vaitheswaran, jazz sirens I'd last seen tag-teaming at Katerina's; Mariama Cosi, another singer who I last saw performing with the Tangent Jazz ensemble; and Alima Ramnarine, yet another singer (what can I tell you? -- singers love Typhanie Monique; quite a few of them have studied with her), who left Chicago last year to lay claim to New York, but who has since been drawn back by true love. Hard to argue with it.
When the band started up again, Janice said, "You can take notes for your blog and dance, can't you?" and I said hell yeah. Only it turns out I can't; and when push came to shove (almost literally) I chose the latter. So details are a little hazy. Two moments, however, stand out: Monique beginning one number by saying, "We're going to sex it up a little," as if the pelvis-grinding piece they'd just finished were some Schubert minuet; and an incident in which two (presumed) friends approached the stage repeatedly shouting "F**k you, Lamar Jones" in an apparent attempt to disrupt the bassist's concentration; but Jones, smiling slyly, just kept grinding out the groove without missing a beat. His was the most heroic performance of the night; at an event like this, the bass is what drives everything else, and Jones was in spellbinding control, just unfurling sheaths of irresistible sound the way you or I might pull paper towels off a tube.
There's no winding down with BMC; the band just goes full throttle until they don't, and you find yourself slammed up against the end of the evening. It's only then you realize that your joints and musculature are pretty much the worse for the impact. I let loose with a few groans as I returned to my table, and Alima, who was once a yoga instructor, gave me a couple of tips on limbering up before next month's Booty call. I only heard about half of what she said because of the ringing in my ears; but in the meantime, I had my own therapy: my unfinished scotch. As I grasped it, I thought -- swear to God -- I felt the tumbler still vibrating.
Booty Movement Coalition plays the last Monday of every month at Martyr's, 3855 N. Lincoln Ave. Their website is www.bootymovementcoalition.com.
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