James Chance, also known as James White (born 20 April 1953 as James Siegfried in Milwaukee, Wisconsin), is an American saxophonist, songwriter and singer.
A key figure in No Wave, Chance has been playing a combination of improvisational jazz-like music and punk in the New York music scene since the late 1970s, in such bands as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James Chance and the Contortions, James White and the Blacks (as he appeared in the film Downtown 81), The Flaming Demonics, James Chance & the Sardonic Symphonics, and James Chance and Terminal City.
Chance differed from some of his No Wave compatriots by possessing (and demanding from his band) a certain level of musical skill and talent. His music can be described as combining the freeform playing of Ornette Coleman with the solid funk rhythm of James Brown, though filtered through a punk rock lens.
Born and raised in Milwaukee and Brookfield, Wisconsin, Chance attended Michigan State University, then the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee, dropped out and moved to New York City in 1976. He quickly became active in both the free jazz and no wave punk rock scenes. After studying for a short time under David Murray, Chance formed The Contortions, who fused jazz improvisation and funk rhythms, with live shows often ending in violence when Chance would confront audience members. The Contortions reached a wider audience with their contribution to the Brian Eno-compiled No New York collection of No Wave acts.
While Chance was professionally and romantically linked with No Wave musical luminary Lydia Lunch, the duo created seminal No Wave group Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, whom Chance soon left.
Chance was noted for engaging in physical confrontations, from pushing contests to fisticuffs, with his New York City audience, including rock critic Robert Christgau. At first this was just an attempt to engage the passive New York audience, but this practice is reported to have somewhat diminished after audiences came to expect the physical confrontations
In 1979, Chance collaborated with Arto Lindsay, Bradley Field, and George Scott on the soundtrack to Diego Cortez's film Grutzi Elvis.
Frictions between Chance and band members eventually led to a breakup of the Contortions in the fall of 1979. The Contortions only album, Buy was released in late 1979, after which Chance moved on to a new project with James White and the Blacks, releasing albums in 1980 (Off-White, featuring Lydia Lunch under the pseudonym Stella Rico) and 1982 (Sax Maniac). Chance's stage and musical persona were finalized by romantic partner and agent Anya Philips, who died of cancer in 1981. Sax Maniac was dedicated to Philips. The group released one more album, Melt Yourself Down, a very limited Japanese release.
The first version of the Blacks was set up by Joseph Bowie. Shortly after, Defunkt emerged out of the Blacks. In 1982 Chance toured with his brother David "Tremor" Siegfried and his band David and the Happenings from Carbondale, Illinois, playing Chicago, their hometown Milwaukee, and much of the Midwest.
Chance relocated to Paris, returning to New York City in 1983 to record the album James White Presents The Flaming Demonics.
In 1987, he contributed saxophone to The False Prophets' Implosion album.
In 2001, Chance reunited with original Contortions members Jody Harris (guitar), Pat Place (slide guitar) and Don Christensen (drums) for a few limited engagements. Original keyboard player Adele Bertei appeared briefly, but bass player George Scott had died of an accidental drug overdose in 1980 and his slot was filled by Eric Sanko. The reunited group has played twice at the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival, and, in 2008, at te PS1 Warm Up series. Chance has also recorded with Blondie since coming out of his semi-retirement. Tiger Style records released the 4-CD box set retrospective "Irresistible Impulse" to critical acclaim in 2003.
In addition to limited engagements with the original Contortions, Chance occasionally performs and records with the Chicago band Watchers. In Europe he performs with James Chance & Les Contorsions, French musicians who have been his backing band since 2006. They played a 15 show Europe tour in April and May 2007 and were back in Europe in October 2007.
In 2009 Chance has made occasional appearances playing keyboards in NYC with a trio, with the material restricted to close readings of jazz standards.
Chance appears on the video release James Chance - Chance of A Lifetime: Live in Chicago 2003 backed by the Chicago band Watchers.
Buy (ZE-Arista 1979) (The Contortions)
Theme from Grutzi Elvis (EP ZE 1979)
Off White (ZE-Buddah 1979) (James White & The Blacks)
Second Chance (ZE-PVC 1980)
Live aux Bains Douches (Fr. Invisible 1980) (The Contortions)
Live in New York (cassette tape ROIR 1981) (The Contortions)
Sax Maniac (Animal 1982) (James White & The Blacks)
James White Presents The Flaming Demonics (ZE-Island 1983)
Melt Yourself Down (Selfish Records Japan 1986)
Soul Exorcism (tape ROIR 1991) (The Contortions)
Lost Chance (ROIR 1995)
Molotov Cocktail Lounge (Enemy Records / Zebralution 1996)
White Cannibal (ROIR 2000)
Christmas with Satan (single Tiger Style 2002)
Irresistible Impulse (retrospective Tiger Style 2003)
Sax Education (2004)
James Chance & Terminal City - Get Down and Dirty! (Wind bell 4 2005)
Pre-Teenage Jesus, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (EP ZE 1978)
James Chance & Terminal City - The Fix is in (decade 01 2010)
No New York (compilation Antilles 1978) (with The Contortions)
No Exit (Blondie album), Blondie guest artist, alto sax (Beyond Records 1999)
Downtown 81 (1981)
Medium Cool (1991), Chet Baker tribute with Alex Chilton, Adele Bertei, and Angel Torsen
Somewhere in the City (1998)
James Chance - Chance of A Lifetime: Live in Chicago 2003 (RUNT 2005)
TV Party (2005)
Rabble Watchers (guest artist) (Gern Blandsten 2006)
Vampire Driver Watchers (guest artist) (Gern Blandsten 2006)
Acoustic Ladyland - Skinny Grin (2006)