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

Nels Cline Anticipation

I like the promo being put behind Initiate, the upcoming (April 13) album from the Nels Cline Singers.  There’s a spiffy new front page at  And Cryptogramophone is running a contest: Answering a trivia question will make you eligible to win all four Nels Cline Singers CDs, a T-shirt, a tote bag, and a poster.  (The only caveat is that the winners are being drawn on April 31. You might have to wait a while.)

(And no, they didn’t scrub the trivia question answer from the Web. Go scout around, and along the way, you’ll pick up some interesting names  and facts from recent L.A. free-jazz history.)

For the uninitiated, the Singers are a singerless trio that plays a wide swath of outsider jazz.  Cline’s guitar runs jazzy and jangly on some tracks, with shadows of prog rock here and there, but each album also tends to have at least one rockin’, indie-sounding instrumental, and at least one drifting, tetherless, seemingly formless piece. The rich variety is all the more reason to put out a double album — Initiate being a package of one studio disk and one live disk.

And it’s the Singers who augment ROVA on the new album, The Celestial Septet.

Cline’s on guitar, of course, with Devin Hoff — formerly of the Bay Area duo Good for Cows and a host of jazz projects — on bass, and versatile mercenary man Scott Amendola on drums. (Amendola has some interesting shows coming this week. More on that tomorrow.)

Pre-ordering for the CD is available through the IndieJazz Web site — or, if you want the T-shirt and tote bag, the Wilco site.

Playlist: July 31, 2009

KZSU playlist highlights for Friday, July 31, 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.

source: yoshis; pic by peter gannushkin, used w/o permission….. The Mary Halvorson set was a treat: I played one track from Dragon’s Head, then one each from her bandmates, Ches Smith (drums), and John Hébert (bass), then capped it off with the soothing end track from Thin Air, her duo album with Jessica Pavone. That very trio is coming to Yoshi’s Oakland on Aug. 4, for one 8:00 set. After hearing all the acclaim for Halvorson over the past several months, it’ll be great to see her live.

source: CDbaby….. I’m also pretty excited that Go-Go Fightmaster is playing on the 10th, at the Ivy Room in Albany. (And bummed that I’ll be out of town that day.) Their song “Buffy Is Dead” opens with a dark, stomping guitar march and needling saxophones. The rest of their self-titled 2003 album goes all over the place, with lots of free jazz and some Monk, sometimes staying inside, sometimes veering wildly outside. The personnel are the same as for Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait and Switch, which is pretty amusing and gives them all extra reason to stick together.

source: long song records….. Acoustic Guitar Trio is Nels Cline, Jim McAuley, and the late Rod Poole, all plucking and scraping and bowing away at their instruments. It’s marvelous, dynamic work with lots of quietude amid the jangling, and it’s all the more poignant given the circumstances around Poole’s passing. (It’s interesting and nice to see that Poole’s tribute Web site makes no mention of that at all.)

source: public eyesore….. The Emergency String Quintet — really, the (x)tet, depending on how many guests pop in — is an all-strings improv project that Bob Marsh gets together occasionally. The results are sublime, producing abstract work that sounds awfully close to composition sometimes. They’ll be playing at Flux 53 tomorrow night.

….. I was going to play the Steve Martin banjo CD, The Crow, someday, believe it or not. But today, the producer, Jim McEuen (of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), randomly called during my show and offered himself to the station for interviews, which jogged my memory about it. We’re talking about the Steve Martin, doing an album of original banjo songs (and a CD booklet stuffed with liner notes written by him). A massive cast of studio musicians (KZSU fave Matt Flinner among them) makes it the “most expensive banjo album in the history of the universe,” or words to that effect. It’s in the liner notes. It must be true!

You can find the full playlist here.

BBC Invasion

This looks like it was a hell of a show:…

It’s “The BBC,” consisting of Tim Berne, Jim Black, and Nels Cline. That page is a set of photos posted by blogger and better-photographer-than-me Laki Sideris, from the Melbourne Jazz Festival.

A full description of the festivities published by The Age uses the phrase “noise jazz” (hey, there’s a shock). The BBC was part of a larger set of performances; The Age namedrops Ethan Iverson, Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Scott Tinkler (cool Aussie trumpeter), and a saxophonist I haven’t heard of named Julien Wilson. Whoever he is, he hired Jim Black for his band, and that’s a good sign.

Playlist: March 27, 2009

KZSU playlist for Friday, March 27, 2009, 3:00 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.

Items of note:

….. Saxophonist Frank Gratkowski will be in town next week for, among other things, a CD release concert for Mimetic Holds, a quartet acoustic improv offering on Balance Point Acoustics, Damon Smith’s record label. Quick review of Mimetic Holds here.

….. Two items from the San Diego haul made the playlist: MMW‘s Book of Angels entry, and Asobi Seksu, which turns out to be in rotation here at KZSU (meaning it’s on the list of stuff we’re encouraged to play repeatedly).

….. Interesting start to the show. MMW was going to be my opener, but Ben, who did the show before mine today, closed things out with “Rod Poole’s Gradual Ascent to Heaven,” a long, heartfelt piece from Nels Cline‘s latest album, Coward. The mood (dark but not too heavy) and the elements of creeping dissonance, made the Robert Moran all-percussion piece a more ideal starting point.

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