James Chance, no-wave icon and The Contortions legend, dead at 71

Meta Description: Legendary no-wave saxophonist and leader of The Contortions, James Chance, passes away at 71. Learn about his influential career and legacy.

No-wave icon, legendary jazz saxophonist, and frontman of The Contortions, James Chance, passes away at the age of 71. The sad news was confirmed by the musician’s brother, David Siegfried.

According to the official statement posted on Facebook, Chance passed away at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center in New York. While Siegfried did not disclose a specific cause of death, it was noted that Chance had been battling health complications for several years.

Early Life and Musical Beginnings

Born in Wisconsin, Chance began his musical journey playing the piano at his Catholic elementary school and started playing alto saxophone at the age of 18. During his time at university, he formed two bands, the jazz-led James Siegfried Quintet and Death, influenced by The Stooges.

Rise to Fame in New York

After moving to New York in 1975, he adopted the name James Chance and soon played alongside musician and lyricist Lydia Lunch in Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. In 1977, Chance formed the first lineup of The Contortions, featuring Jody Harris, Pat Place, George Scott III, Don Christiansen, and Adele Bertei.

Breakthrough and Legacy

According to the Facebook post, an early review of their live performance described Chance’s commanding stage presence: “Mr. Chance immediately established his personal space at the top of his performance by kicking out all those artist types sitting crosslegged within about a six-foot radius of his band, as he snarled and smirked with unmerciful obnoxiousness.”

1979 was a pivotal year when ZE Records released both The Contortions’ debut album and Off White by James White and the Blacks, a musical group Chance formed in 1977. According to Facebook, these were two paramount projects that Chance “would toggle between these two appellations for the remainder of his career.”

Later Years and Collaborations

After The Contortions disbanded, Chance occasionally reunited with former members and performed as a guest alongside other bands like Blondie and Le Contortions.

Following his passing, former bandmates Bertei and Place shared their condolences. Place reflected, “Working with him in the early days of the Contortions was a roller coaster ride of fun, creativity and insanity. His loss is a great one for the downtown community and the music world.”

James Chance passes away, leaving behind a legacy that profoundly impacted the no-wave and jazz scenes. His innovative approach and unforgettable performances will be remembered by fans and musicians alike.

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