April 2007

The Shuffle Demons
presented by Jaymz Bee
April 24, 2007 Lula Lounge Toronto
Attention Earthlings — It ain’t Over ‘til it’s Over!
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
If you are set to witness a Shuffle Demons performance, let me advise you — DON’T leave until the end.

Take this past Tuesday night. You may have thought that the first set could not be topped or even equalled. For sheer craziness, there was “Out of My House, Roach”, culminating in Stich Wynston’s unforgettable dance of the dying cockroach, joined on the floor, literally, by a long-haired platinum blonde named George Koller (whose serious-looking bald alter ego won the 2007 National Jazz Award for Bassist of the Year); the psychedelia of “Gabi’s Gimme Suit” with the untamable George 'the lion-maned' Koller playing with bass, screeches and echoes, hitting drumsticks threaded between the strings and letting them bounce. Also greatly entertaining was the fast-rapping Richard Underhill’s “Cheese on Bread” which sparked a spontaneous sing-along and Stich Wynston’s classic poem, “What do You Want?” (do you want to learn to count? do you want a fish to mount? did you know Sun Ra’s real name was Sonny Blount?)

Richard Underhill
But make no mistake, just like the Sun Ra Arkestra, these are not just eccentric dudes in eye-catching costumes, these are incredible and wildly creative musicians. The instrumental “Perry’s Groove”, Mingus-y, yet quintessentially Shuffle Demons, laid out that fact right from the start. Sure there was humour, lots of it, but who said a band has to be serious to be seriously good? There was exciting soloing, great harmonizing, the rich sounds of baritone, alto and tenor saxophones in unison and powerful rhythm.

Was that first set topped or equalled? Good question. It started with Mingus’ “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” with which the audience, unrequested, clapped along. The “Funkin Pumpkin” got everyone on the dance floor and the “Shuffle Groove” brought in a taste of Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire” but with fiery saxophone instead of fiery guitar. We were pretty much experienced by this point but still not prepared for what happened next. During “Spadina Bus” (77B on the TTC) the Demons walked off the stage, still playing as they wove their way through the audience. Some people, perhaps the more experienced, followed them in a conga line. I stayed in my seat and watched, figuring the set was over — until I realized they had danced right out the front door of Lula Lounge into the street. Thankfully, it was a pleasant spring night, perfect for laughing and clapping along to the music, perfect for watching bewildered motorists rubber-necking as they witnessed Stich Wynston dancing like a demon possessed on construction-encumbered Dundas Street.

Kelly Jefferson, Perry White & Richard Underhill

Demons George Koller & Stich Wynston
Once inside and back on the stage, I wondered what the Shuffle Demons could do next that wouldn’t be too anti-climactic to hold our interest. But, there it was, something completely different but with just as much sense of place, the Demon version of “Hockey Night in Canada”, very fitting from a band one audience member had called a 'national treasure'.

Of course, the audience was far too hyped to let them leave after that and kept shouting for more, calling out the names of various tunes. The majority vote was clearly for “Cheese on Bread”. Someone shouted “they already played that”, someone else yelled “I missed it! I wasn’t here!” A little more clamouring for cheese and the Demons acquiesced. After which the crowd let them go, satisfied with the late-night snack.

Topped? equalled? I don’t know. I do know it’s a good idea to stay until the end of the show, you don’t know what you might miss. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.

The Shuffle Demons
Richard Underhill – alto & baritone saxophones
Perry White – tenor & baritone saxophones
Kelly Jefferson – tenor saxophone
George Koller – acoustic bass
Stich Wynston – drums

> www.shuffledemons.com <

We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
• •
The Live Music Report

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