Scott Amendola in Mountain View Tonight

Tonight (Oct. 24) is the night Scott Amendola‘s tour, supporting his album Lift, comes to Mountain View, to the Dana Street Roasting Company.

It’s not your last Bay Area chance to see his trio in action; they’ll be at Yoshi’s and Kuumbwa as well. (See “Amendola Approacheth.”) But for those of us who live closer to the Peninsula than to the cultural hubs of San Francisco and Oakland, it’s a rare chance to support creative music in our own ‘hood.  Dana Street’s owners have been generously offering their storefront for mainstream jazz and other foot-traffic music, but the owner is tuned into the Nels Cline vector of creative music and has welcomed it into the shop — allowing Steuart Liebig to electronically jam on a Saturday night, for instance. Let’s reward them for that.

Besides, there’s no baseball game tonight. What else are you going to do?

Scott Amendola TrioLift (Sazi, 2010)

Now, it’s true that Amendola’s isn’t the most extreme type of creative music. It’s got a downright friendly sound that won’t scare away a coffeehouse crowd.

“Tudo de Bom” opens Lift with a downright friendly vibe, picking up a patient groove with tinges of Afropop, led by Jeff Parker spinning easy-flowing guitar lines. John Shifflett’s catchy bassline on “Blues for Istanbul” introduces a richly slow “world”-music blues. Someone walking in off the street, looking for a double-decaf-half-soy-whatever, could easily be drawn in by these welcoming sounds.

Even the more abstract, electronics-drive opening on “Cascade” gives way to a light-touch guitar line. I said you can’t judge Lift by two tracks, but the two in question turn out to be quite representative of the album.

For rockin’ moments, “Death By Flower” gets loud and Cline-like. “The Knife” has a crunchy beat and surf/spy-movie guitar for one of the catchier themes on the disk.

The trio on Lift is a subset of the quintet that’s played on Amendola’s last album.  The group is missing Jenny Scheinman’s violin and Nels Cline’s guitar, but Amendola partly refills the space with electronics. He’s been trying this direction for some time, finding ways to trigger electronics himself in his live shows. (Cline has taken advantage of this, both in The Nels Cline Singers and with The Celestial Septet — reviews here and here.)

It’s interesting to hear how Amendola wields the smaller band. The first minutes of “Cascade” are a terrific group effort, with colorful electronics taking the lead, Amendola’s drums loud and up-front, and Parker serving as a shimmering backdrop. Shifflett even gets the first solo. But for most of the album, Parker’s guitar holds down the lead and melody roles, as you’d expect in a trio. He presents a mostly light touch on guitar, backed by denser bass lines and bustling drums.

Amendola Approacheth

Drummer Scott Amendola is about to put out his first album leading a trio, Lift. It’s coming Oct. 19.

You can hear tracks by going to Amendola’s “Audio/Video” page. Click on “radio,” and the fixed program will start with the snappy funk of “Lima Bean” followed by the airy drum solo that opens “Lift,” the title track that sketches a peaceful twilight setting. (Then stick around for the high-strung funk of “59th Street Blues,” from Amendola’s first album.)

You can’t judge Lift by two tracks, but here goes. The surface is showing a reimagining of T.J.Kirk-type funk and a rediscovery of jazz territory. But the start to “Lift” shows there’s going to be room for some wide-open improvisation as well.

Amendola also has a love of African pop and a growing sensibility for electronics both as featured instruments and as backdrop. Those factors gave the Scott Amendola Band a broad scope. The most recent album, Believe (Cryptogramophone, 2005) does have some funk and rock elements — one track could be a Crazy Horse instrumental — but it’s also got deep, ambitious pieces like the reverent “Cesar Chavez.”

That band also benefitted from a lineup of expansive players — Jeff Parker and Nels Cline on guitars, and Jenny Scheinman on violin. Lift pares things down to a trio, with Parker and S.A.Band bassist John Shifflett. But at the same time, Amendola has broadened his scope in compositions and in performance options — his electronics play some key roles in recent Nels Cline Singers albums, The Celestial Septet and the colossal Initiate.

Amendola is taking the trio on a small CD release tour around the Bay Area and up the coast.  (Note that the itinerary includes Dana Street Roasting Co. in Mountain View — a neat local coffee house that’s willing to go out on a limb for the sake of good music. Support them!)

Sat. Oct. 23 — Blue Whale, Los Angeles
Sun. Oct. 24 — Dana St. Roasting, Mountain View, 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Oct. 25 — Yoshi’s Oakland, separate shows at 8:00 and 10:00
Tue. Oct. 26 — Earshot Jazz Festival (Cornish College of the Arts), Seattle
Wed. Oct. 27 — The Goodfoot Lounge, Portland, Ore.
Thur. Oct. 28 — Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, 7:00, or 6:00 if you want dinner beforehand