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Safe Low Limit digs deep for Jazz Mondays in November

Safe Low Limit
Le Petit Chicago
All Jazz Mondays in November, 2016

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Safe Low Limit opened its November residency at Le Petit Chicago Monday night – with music extending far into the bass clef.

Safe Low Limit (l-r): Steve Berndt, Michel Delage, Keith Hartshorn-Walton. Ken Kanwisher offer something different on Monday nights at LPC in November.   ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Trombone: Steve Berndt. Cello: Ken Kanwisher. Tuba: Keith Walton. Drums: Michel Delage. Your standard jazz quartet instrumentation it wasn't.

It was the very first show for the group as a quartet. Kanwisher first started working on these arrangements for a previous group, Berndt said – and then he and Berndt started playing together last spring. They debuted some of this music as a duo at the 24-hour Jazz Ramble in June, and then decided to expand to a quartet.

“Keith Walton saw us and thought it was a cool idea so we decided to ask him if he'd like to join in.  That's when we made the decision to go all bass clef instruments, [to] ask Michel Delage if he'd like to get involved and not have a piano or guitar.

They picked the name “Safe Low Limit” because it is “an arranging term that describes a formula that identifies the low point at which harmony ceases to be clear based on the fundamental of a given series of notes played at the same time. It seemed to be the right name for this band!”

At this show, the four musicians played mainstream jazz that connected well with the appreciative audience. It was an uncommon collection of tunes, opening with a happy TV show theme (“Hikky Burr”), followed by a dramatic bossa nova by hard bopper Hank Mobley and the soulful “Another Star” by Stevie Wonder, and ending with the gentle and melancholy “Interplay” by Bill Evans. They also included two originals: “I Spy” by Kanwisher and “Convalescence” by Berndt. They consistently produced a rich and driving sound – primarily bass but accented by Berndt's vocals and Delage's cymbals – in arrangements that allowed for considerable interplay and overlaying of sounds.

Berndt said they were looking for an “eclectic, modern” sound, and that he'd already written three songs for the group. The quartet has three more Jazz Mondays at Le Petit Chicago this month, and he expected they would be “seeing where things balance” in terms of their arrangements and set-list.

    – Alayne McGregor

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

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