Straight Dope 

Luke Wyland and Sporting's Improv Mainline

SPORTING Not to be confused with Sports, their all-Huey Lewis cover band.

SPORTING Not to be confused with Sports, their all-Huey Lewis cover band.

HE'S HAMMERING NOTES. He grins. He smiles. He mind melds with his partner then looks up through the roof. He is wide eyed with eyes closed. Sweating warmth, explosion, and rapture. It's carnal. As much as any musician I've seen play, Luke Wyland looks like his music. You can feel when he finds the slipstream—the joyous fervor is downright tangible.

The scenes I speak of are the band AU, Wyland's swirling, unclassifiable, perfectionist, and rhythmic heart. With virtuosic drummer Dana Valatka, AU construct effervescent suites where all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed. A compositional team at first, at times AU has towered, 20 or 30 musicians strong.

Indeed, Wyland covets collaboration—it's part of that musical joy. And collaboration brings us to Sporting, a new duo with Wyland and drummer John Niekrasz. Here, Wyland plays accordion. He's played it for 14 years.

"Originally it was about portability and a general lack of love for '90s keyboards," Wyland says of the accordion. "Since then it's been a beast I'm constantly falling in and out of love with. Taming it has been a bit elusive." Compared to Wyland's familiar keyboards, though, accordion isn't far off. Both instruments are rhythmic, allowing chords and bass notes to mingle with melody. Played skillfully, accordions do the jobs of many.

As for branching out from AU to find himself in another duo, Wyland says, "Two-pieces allow for a greater sense of intimacy and interplay. Essentially two people sitting down with the ability to let the conversation go wherever it leads them."

Niekrasz concurs, "In Luke's playing, I love the feeling of pushing the music forward with nothing more than the faith that it can go somewhere meaningful for us."

Where that conversation goes—or what Sporting will sound like—is really anyone's guess at this point. Nothing is written. Sporting is pure improv, changing day to day depending on the moods of its members. But after some five-odd years playing together, the two have developed an extensive language and sense of each other. In separate written interviews, each described their playing as "physical."

As Niekrasz put it, Sporting runs the gamut from sparse all the way to "grasping for intense ecstasy in this music." And good improvisation, after all, is like mainlining straight musical dope—the purest, strongest way to feel that joyous flutter.

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