Kelly Bucheger's Jazz Pages



The Illicit Sextet: Chapter One
Illicit Productions IPIS-10047



Steve Kenny, trumpet
Kelly Bucheger, tenor saxophone
David Roos, guitar
Chris Lomheim, piano
Tom Pieper, bass
Nathan Norman, drums



liner notes

Steve, David & I formed The Illicit Sextet in 1987 with three of our friends from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls. Having been recently cut loose from the nurturing environment of the college music department, we sought an outlet to continue pursuing our interest in America's great art form: jazz. From that immense musical terrain we chose to focus on bebop, hard bop, and "straight-ahead" music, an expressive language whose grammatical rules were codified by our mentors and heroes: Miles, Trane, Newk, and others. Despite the fact that it was not (and is not) a "popular" music, we tapped into this meaty part of the jazz legacy because it communicated very directly to us, because we wanted to learn and understand more about the music and its practitioners, and because we wanted to see what we could do in that form. In concentrating there, we were not disavowing any other part of the vast jazz spectrum, but were instead choosing a musical starting point that we could all agree upon as exciting, meaningful, and important to us. We wanted to refine our skills there, and take it wherever it would go.

We're still in that process. About a year after the group was formed, when our book was bulging with our own tunes, and after some contentious discussion about the merits and pitfalls of the idea, we decided to hunker down and focus exclusively on original jazz composition. Although the move seemed risky at first, and we feared we'd isolate ourselves further (jazz is already a lonely pursuit), this was important to us and we needed to do it. It certainly put more responsibility on our shoulders - we not only had to be performers within a complex and demanding musical genre, but we also had to compose meaningful music worthy of that genre that would challenge us and stay true to our vision. As a result, our understanding of the music and of ourselves grew, and the Sextet became an outstanding vehicle for personal and group expression.

The Sextet reached it current (and best) incarnation with the addition of Chris, Tom, and Nathan about three years ago. We're lucky to have found three extraordinary artists who share our musical interests, and whose playing and composing have taken the group to a new level. Our different approaches and takes on this music have resulted in compositions which are quite individual and varied, enhancing the scope of the Sextet and keeping us on our toes. We have all undergone a remarkable period of growth and change through our work with this group.

Chapter One documents where we're at right now. We're proud of it. And while we don't know where this story is going, or how this book will end, we are enjoying the plot twists and turns, and look forward to each new page.

  • Kelly Bucheger



  • track listing

    1. No! (You'll Want The Window Down) 7:58 (Steve Kenny)
    2. Chapter One 5:57 (Kelly Bucheger) (mp3)
    3. Theme For Woody Shaw (Mean What You Say) 7:26 (Kelly Bucheger)
    4. Fortune Kooky Blues 5:05 (David Roos)
    5. Dear John 4:38 (David Roos)
    6. Izzy & Lambchop 7:21 (Chris Lomheim)
    7. Raddical 7:37 (Steve Kenny)
    8. New Entangoments 6:02 (David Roos)
    9. Batmonk 9:42 (Steve Kenny)




    Twin Cities Reader
    July 21, 1993

    Bristling with energy and ideas, chock-full of tasty compositions, studded with hot solos and cool quotes, The Illicit Sextet's debut, Chapter One, is arguably the best homegrown jazz product of 1993. Recalling Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Kenny Dorham, Kenny Burrell, and the rest of the late-'60s, Blue Note Records hall of fame, Chapter One offers both energetic, up-tempo slugfests and tender balladry. Toss in echoes of seminal John Coltrane, precise Bill Evans, angular Thelonious Monk, and a taste of neo-Argentine tango, and Chapter One is a smokin' statement worth savoring - more than the sum of its influences. (Tom Surowicz)

    Midwest Jazz
    Spring 1994

    This group has existed for about eight years, and this is their debut album. Did it take that long to learn how to be illicit, or were they just born that way? No matter the process, I was pleasantly surprised to listen to and enjoy this cohesive, witty, no-nonsense jazz ensemble.

    Trumpeter Steve Kenny takes center stage brightly and consistently on most of the CD. Tenor saxophonist Kelly Bucheger, no stranger to Arts Midwest members and readers, nods his head to Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Joe Henderson with a smooth, bluesy, and at times gutsy sound. But the band on the whole pulls together like a latter day version of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Tight and intriguing charts, confident, chest-puffed solos, and a lively spirit are always present.

    The range of the Sextet's repertoire is hardly illicit. From Blakey and 'Trane, to Wes Montgomery and Horace Silver-styled material, touching on Mingus and Ornette, the band has all bases covered. But they are not copying or faking, they're hitting the note. A true sense of democracy comes through in their jazz (which by the way is all originals), and I'm happy to report there's not a mediocre tune in the bunch.

    Some tracks stand out like "Fortune Kooky Blues" (are they Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans?), which is a bit funky and, dare I say, Marsalisish? No slight intended: they swing hard and play pungent solos. "Izzy & Lambchop" is my favorite. This 6/8 piece sports some unpredictable changes, especially by pianist Chris Lomheim and bassist Tom Pieper, who play unison lines throughout, again reminiscent of Blakey.

    Also noticeable is guitarist David Roos, who takes a meaty solo on "No (You'll Want The Window Down)," the first track, and introduces "New Entangoments" in a manner that would have raised Astor Piazzola's eyebrows.

    No one should be shocked that The Illicit Sextet is as good as it is. It would be disturbing if, through poor promotion or distribution, they did not go any further than this extraordinary CD and their Midwest homes. Many jazz listeners would be missing a real treat. (Michael G. Nastos)

    Twin Cities
    City Pages
    July 21, 1993

    Speaking of long-awaited good news from the CD front, there's also a two-day celebration for the debut disc by the Twin Cities premier jazz sextet. Their self-produced Chapter One is so professionally engineered it could pass any expert's blindfold test for major-label credibility. And with four skilled and scholarly composers fighting for room among the nine cuts, the selections are fat-free, but they make for a true musical feast. In general, trumpeter Steve Kenny favors smoldering hard-bop inventiveness, while tenor saxophonist Kelly Bucheger adds more of a gritty soul feel. Pianist Chris Lomheim explodes off the keyboard with exceptional grace, while guitarist Dave Roos offers a whole other spectrum of melodic possibility, not to mention a penchant for contrapuntal experimentation that keeps listeners on their toes. Think of The Illicit Sextet as the Cadillac of local jazz - not too flashy, just a smooth, classy and expansive machine that glides effortlessly through the post-bop traditions. (Jim Meyer)

    Twin Cities Jazz Society
    Jazz Notes
    March 1994

    You heard them on TCJS's "Jazz from J to Z" series and now you can hear them at home. One of the most popular and best modern groups in the Twin Cities, the band on this 52-minute CD includes Steve Kenny , trumpet; Kelly Bucheger, tenor saxophone; David Roos, guitar; Chris Lomheim, piano; Tom Pieper, bass; and Nathan Norman, drums. The nine originals that comprise Chapter One are written by Kenny, Roos, Bucheger, and Lomheim and reflect a maturity and confidence one normally does not expect of such relatively young musicians. Yet their musicianship, collectively and individually, supports their compositional skills and creates a total blend of bop infused with excitement and swing. One hears this CD played with some frequency on KBEM-FM and deservedly so; this is an album that could be played with pride on any jazz station in the nation. If this is Chapter One, fans of The Illicit Sextet are waiting anxiously for the succeeding chapters in what one hopes will be an ongoing story-telling session in their vivid vernacular of modern jazz. (Will Shapira)


    L to R: Chris, Steve, Tom, David, Kelly, Nathan



    Kelly Bucheger's Jazz Pages