News Column

It's safe to say this will be no ordinary night at Cafe Nine

August 7, 2014

By Mark Zaretsky, New Haven Register, Conn.

Aug. 07--NEW HAVEN -- You don't need a whole lot of words -- or a lot of folks onstage -- to engage people with some great music.

Just ask New York's Big Lazy instrumental trio or their Chicago-based bluesy-soulful barrelhouse duo, partners for a show Saturday night at Cafe Nine, The Claudettes.

The two bands have five people between them.

But both know how to carve out a sound and work it like mad -- in The Claudettes' case, with a drum set and a piano, and nothing else.

This should be an interesting night.

Tickets are $6 in advance at or $8 at the door. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Big Lazy, with an upright bass, guitar and drum, sounds like something somewhere between a spaghetti Western surf lounge act and a Pocahontas-rockabilly nightmare -- and that's a compliment.

Its music has been nicknamed -- or maybe they coined the term themselves -- "twang noir."

No less a critic than Robert Christgau said of Big Lazy, "They're doing it all without uttering a word. The bare-skulled leader-guitarist contorts noisily and precisely, the double-jointed bassist plucks plenty and bows when it's called for, the black-garbed drummer bashes out one tricky beat after another."

The Claudettes, meanwhile, are a frenetic, hopped-up garage-punk-barrelhouse-blues-soulful-jazz duo that really doesn't seem to have any use for the rest of a band.

They also have one of the better press release-writers out there, so we'll just let him or her tell you that The Claudettes present "their own fanatical fusion of blues and soul-jazz -- like Ray Charles on a punk kick. Imagine an amped-up piano hybrid of Otis Spann, Ray Charles and Mose Allison, joined by a jolly madman drummer and conducted in gonzo fashion by Raymond Scott.

"File under: post-burlesque? Neo-vaudeville? Cosmic cartoon music?" the mystery writer continues. "You've never seen an instrumental duo like this."

The Claudettes, one of the many great, quirky acts to call The Hideout on the edge Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood home, are Johnny Iguana on piano and Michael Caskey on drums.

Iguana, or Ig, is a onetime member of oh my god, who has performed or recorded with the late Junior Wells, Carey Bell, Magic Slim and Koko Taylor, Lil' Ed, Matthew Skoller, Eddie Shaw, Otis Rush, James Cotton, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Lonnie Brooks, Sugar Blue, Otis Clay, Van Morrison and Jeff Healy, among others.

Caskey, besides his role with The Claudettes, is a member of Eastern Blok, a Balkan fusion band.

Their well-written shtick is that they became who they are "when they called a place called Claudette's Bar in 2010 looking for a gig in between Chicago and St. Louis. Not only did Claudette book them into her bar in Oglesby, Ill., (an hour and a half southwest of Chicago'sSouth Side), but she made them her house band and put them on salary."

Sounds worth getting there early for.

Call Mark Zaretsky at 203-789-5722.


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Source: New Haven Register (CT)

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