James Chance


The saxophonist-singer- bandleader James Chance is one of those canny musicians who assumes a variety of professional guises to hide the fact that he always does pretty much the same thing. Born James Siegfried in Milwaukee, he moved to New York in the late 1970s, immediately becoming a central player in the city’s punk-informed No Wave scene. With his band The Contortions, Chance offered up a stripped-down amalgam of manic funk and free jazz that packed a nerve-rattling punch. He soon changed his moniker to James White, in tribute to James Brown, and, having broken with The Contortions, hired a band he called The Blacks in order to apply the No Wave aesthetic to disco and soul.

Regardless of what name he was using, Chance’s live sets were so aggressive that he occasionally got into physical confrontations with audience members. Since reappearing in the mid-’90s after a decade-long hiatus, Chance has mostly made a living off his past, releasing little new material but a lot of old stuff, reforming the original Contortions, and making conspicuous guest appearances. This is what he will do next week, supporting Shibusashirazu Orchestra, where his out-sized personality will likely prevent him from getting swallowed up in that group’s swirling anarchy of theatrical Japanese rock ‘n’ whatever. As long as he’s here, he’ll also do a few shows by himself and show off another side of his musical persona: the solo jazz pianist.