Taking their name from a compilation of old time ragtime and blues Shake Your Wicked Knees, the avant garde, brass jazz quartet of Wicked Knee has one of the most interesting backstories I’ve recently heard. Over twenty years ago, Billy Martin asked his then bandmate and friend in John Lurie’s Lounge Lizards, Steven Bernstein to help him create a freaky, avant garde jazz act. But the plans got put on hold for a couple of decades as Martin was making a name for himself in envelope pushing trio Martin, Medeski and Wood, and as Bernstein was doing his thing, recreating the big band sound in Sex Mob and in the Millennial Territory Orchestra. Bernstein and Martin enlisted the help of trumpeter Curtis Fowlkes and tubaist Marcus Rojas to create a sound that is heavily influenced by New Orleans brass– but with a frenetic and eccentric downtown NYC feel. That shouldn’t be terribly surprising as each member of Wicked Knee are all renowned members of NYC’s modern jazz scene.
Wicked Knee’s debut effort, Heels Over Head dropped yesterday through Billy Martin’s Amulet Records. One of the most impressive tracks on the album is the brass band’s rendition of one of my favorite White Stripes songs, “The Hardest Button to Button.” And much like the original, the Wicked Knee rendition manages to kick ass and be funky.