JAMES CHANCE is to the saxophone what Jerry Lee Lewis is to the piano. Always light years ahead of his time, back in the late 70′s Chance invented the 80′s by melding punk and funk and dousing it with burst of free-jazz saxophone, Sun Ra-inspired organ noise, and organic disco beats. When not attacking audience members – a common occurrence – with his militantly-arranged line-ups and ever-changing changing monikers he taught white punks to dance like James Brown and wrestled the saxophone back from incidental music on romantic comedies when the man kisses the woman against a background of the twinkling Manhattan sky-line.
Chance came into fruition at that point when punk / new wave was furrowing its brow, cranking up the distortion, discovering John Coltrane and New York loft spaces and embarking on what would be dubbed No Wave; a deconstructionist approach to rock ‘n’ roll where melody was sacrificed for the DNA-shifting power of dissonance. His first self-fronted project were the CONTORTIONS which he started after leaving Lydia Lunch’s Teenage Jesus And The Jerks. They gained much notoriety in 1978 after Brian Eno caught a performance that prompted him to produce the now legendary No New York record (1978), a renowned document of the times that also featured Mars and DNA.
Shortly after Chance went onto record the classic self-produced BUY (1979) that he produced himself, and almost simultaneously he recorded Off White (1979) under the name JAMES WHITE AND THE BLACKS, featuring most of the same musicians (alongside Lydia Lunch under the pseudo name Stella Rico) and continued performing together until tensions forced a split. Yet Chance was still riding high, featuring in the movie Downtown 81 (1981) alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat.
After the sad passing of his muse – nightclub founder, fashionista, photographer and friend to Debbie Harry – Anya Phillips in 1981, chance reformed JAMES WHITE AND THE BLACKS with a completely different line up to record Sax Maniac (1982) for Chris Stein of Blondie’s Animal Records.
Over the course of a rich, colourful – and occasionally troubled – career, Chance has reinvented the sonic potential of the saxophone, an instrument he wields like a weapon. His juddering rhythms and avant-garde approach to combining jazz and punk has seen his influence spread far and wide in the vastly varied works of Talking Heads, The Birthday Party, Sonic Youth, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and many others. Underexposed, yet never undervalued, JAMES CHANCE remains one of the US underground’s most important musical exports. When he blows, the whole world knows.