Don’t be chicken, try this ‘Erotic Adventure’

The Jazz Estate has been the home of The Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken for 10 years. Photo by Cy Kondrick/cy.kondrick@mu.edu

In the world of entertainment, an eye-catching name can make all the difference. It’s the sole reason why anybody wasted their time on movies like “Snakes on a Plane” or “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

While those two films attempted to hide mediocre content behind awesome names, local musical group The Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken proves that great entertainment and art can also come with a great title.

The improvisational jazz troupe, led by bassist and vocalist Matt Turner, performs every Tuesday night at the Jazz Estate, 2423 N. Murray Ave. While their weekly performances have made them a Milwaukee staple, their origins range from all across North America. Turner himself is a native of Richmond Hill, Canada, but the music has Southern roots.

“Myself and Jeremy Kuzniar, our drummer, went to a jazz festival in New Orleans in ’99,” Turner said. “We saw all of this great, thrown-together improv jazz.”

Eventually, The Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken reached its current home, the Jazz Estate, in 2001, and the band has played there every week for the past 10 years. While some musicians would struggle to produce new material every week, the improvised nature of their show promises new content all the time.

“Nothing is ever rehearsed, and there are no songs,” Turner said. “Someone just starts a song. Either we take turns or it’s whoever feels a melody or a beat.”

Some potential listeners may be concerned by the lack of pre-written music, but Turner said the free-form and improvisational inspiration on display is “jazz at its most fundamental core.” It also assures that no two shows will contain the same music.

While Turner admits some are not too keen on their off-the-cuff style, their fans and regulars — who often refer to the band as just “the Chicken” — love it.

Adding to the appeal of the weekly shows is the location itself, the Jazz Estate. The jazz club, which features live music six nights a week, was originally known as Champions Stage House, but its name was changed in the mid-’70s to the catchier Jazz Estate. The venue’s low-key exterior and dark interior is initially intimidating, but it doesn’t take long for the friendly patrons and smooth music to make you feel comfortable.

And feeling relaxed and comfortable is a must for the Chicken. Turner described the show as a “definitely dirty, NC-17 show,” and over the group’s 10-year run at the Jazz Estate, they have seen nudity, vomiting and random people dressed up as chickens. Some have even attempted to pick fights with the musicians on stage.

However, Turner promises it is all in the name of fun.

“It’s debauchery in its best legal sense,” Turner said.

Adding to the fun is, of course, the name of the band itself — which Turner says has no meaning at all. In fact, he originally defined it simply by saying, “You can come up with whatever you want it to mean,” leading to a variety of interpretations. Regardless of any “meaning,” the name’s shock value and quirky nature match the group’s improvisational theme.

As fun as the Chicken’s show is, Turner said the state of Milwaukee’s jazz scene is much more sobering.

“It’s hurting,” Turner said. “Innovators are trying to stretch back and bring improv back. It has potential, but people aren’t seeking it out.”

For now, though, Turner and other members of The Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken are content to continue performing and playing their unique brand of music. So don’t let their quirky name scare you off — this adventure is one you’ll never regret.

The Erotic Adventures of the Static Chicken performs every Tuesday at the Jazz Estate, 2423 N. Murray Ave., starting at 10 p.m. For more info, check online at jazzestate.com, or call 414-964-9923.