The Album Reviewed:
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- His Eye Is On The Sparrow (5:51)
- Bantu (4:46)
- A Cry For John Brown (12:02)
- Whisper, Scream (9:32)
- My Son, The Wanderer (9:09)
- Streetbeat (6:40)
- Masters Of War (9:07)
- Rosa (8:08)
Jenny Scheinman - violin
Nels Cline - electric guitar
Eric Crystal - saxophones
Todd Sickafoose - acoustic bass
Scott Amendola - drums, percussion
Carla Bozulich - vocal (7)
Produced by Scott Amendola and Jeff Gauthier
Recorded by Adam Muñoz at Möbius Music,
San Francisco, CA, January, 2002;
Recorded by Jeff Gauthier at Goatwood Manor,
Venice, CA, May, 2002;
Recorded by Rich Breen at Casa Dogmatica,
Burbank, CA, June, 2002;
Mixed by Rich Breen at Casa Dogmatica, Burbank, CA
Assisted by Eve and Daisy
Mastered by Rich Breen
"This is drummer Scott Amendola's second recording
as a leader, although his first, recorded in late 1999, was an
independent release and not widely distributed. Amendola's debut
on the West Coast Cryptogramophone label (with better distribution,
hopefully) has him retaining four-fifths of his quintet, with label
regular Nels Cline newly added on guitars. Jenny Scheinman continues
on violin, Todd Sickafoose remains on acoustic bass, and Eric Crystal
is once again on saxophones. Amendola wrote or arranged all the
compositions on this CD, and he definitely has an interactive group
sound in mind. Solo space is quite generous (the eight tracks are
seven to eight minutes long on the average) but the blend of violin,
sax, and guitar also makes for a great ensemble sound, and the
musicians frequently comp behind each other, providing additional
texture and ear-pleasing counterpoint.
Jazz musicians of Amendola's age, disposition, and talent are anything
but rigid when it comes to interests and influences, and Cry is not
only tight and passionate, but also highly eclectic. As a drummer,
Amendola never seems to be striving for any specific effect, but
he has a great sense of dynamics, and is always deep in the groove.
He's a percussionist who seemingly can't help being funky (quietly
or exuberantly) no matter what he's playing. His bandmates are equally
versatile. Scheinman has classical training, has played with hybrid
avant-rock groups such as Charming Hostess, and is a student of Eastern
European/Jewish folk music. Guitarist Cline has acquired a substantial
reputation, both as leader and bandmember, for effortlessly navigating
a stylistic range that runs from nuanced acoustic picking through
thrash, grunge, and free playing, and into Hendrix-style blues. The
reputations of saxophonist Eric Crystal and bassist Todd Sickafoose
are perhaps more closely bound to the San Francisco Bay area, but
they too are experienced musicians who have played in a variety of
musical contexts -- folk, blues, pop, alt-rock, and jazz. Crystal's
playing on this CD is particularly fluid and confident. He has some
great exchanges with Cline, and the two of them sound like they are
having enormous fun testing each other's mettle.
The imaginative program on this CD begins with
a traditional Christian hymn, "His Eye is On the Sparrow," featuring Scheinman's ravishingly
ethereal violin, and then jumps into the jaunty worldbeat fusion
of "Bantu," followed by an affecting but propulsive "A Cry for
John Brown," where Crystal, Cline, and then Scheinman, queue up one
after another to dazzle with their invention, passion, and technical
skill. Cline's solo, especially, is a model of controlled chaos,
building to an apex of totally fuzzed-out distortion before slipping
deftly back into the theme. Every track has new treasures to offer,
from the angular post-bop of "Streetbeat," the combination of dissonant,
unsettling free improv, and introspective lyricism on "Whisper, Scream," the
modal mysticism of "My Son, the Wanderer," the chilling, funereal
vision of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" (with guest vocalist Carla
Bozulich), and the spare, understated beauty of the closing "Rosa," which
features Cline's pensive and delicate acoustic guitar work. Indeed,
this one has it all."
-Bill Tilland, All
The drummer of the Charlie Hunter Band is a master of intense grooves, but on this album he favors the atmospheric band sound as opposed to overbearing drumming. Afro rhythms meet Country, the violinist Jenny Scheinman meets guitarist Nels Cline, and when Carla Bozulich sings her extreme version of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War", one has to ask, also regarding bassist Todd Sickafoose: why are such exciting musicians known to insiders only?
- von Klaus von Seckendorff, Rollingstone-Germany (4 Stars), December 2003
...And with that we cross the pacific to San Francisco, the home of Scott Amendola
The former Charlie Hunter drummer - together with violinist Jenny Scheinman and guitarist Nels Cline among others - has set up one of the best current Jazz-rock bands in the US. On "Cry" the Scott Amendola Band sounds like a cross between the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the Hieroglyphics Ensemble before a backdrop of Americana and Ambient.
- Jazzthing, September/October 2003
....."a cry for john brown".... the piece is on "Cry" , the second album of drummer Scott Amendola as a leader. The album has a concern. A tragic concern, considering its immeasurable necessity (and how could one not consider it!). Once perceived, you can recognize it in every string, in every beat and breath, in each hair pf the violin bow: Peace - and how it does not exist. It is a conceptual album with Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" as its centerpiece. ( he quotes from the lyrics...)
The Geraldine-Fibers-singer Carla Bozulich, quite post-hope and bitter, voices hard and soft. Like Marianne Faithful on turpentine. The band pushes, Eric Crystal on sax takes over and nails the vibe as alarmingly as Gato Barbieri at the beginning of Carla Bley's "Escalator Over The Hill". The pure music of "Cry" is contemporary original-eclectic jazz: Miles' Nefertiti, Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, Trane's brain, Bird's heart, John's rage. (..this is a word-game: "rage" means "Zorn"). The album begins with an old gospel song, and after the Dylan-showdown, it ends with a few minutes of commendable quiet in a slowly dissolving iridaceous composition named "Rosa".
The fine, woody sound of the violin, in melodic union with sax and guitar, reduces the abstractness of a jazz framework. The feeling is somehow at home; a feeling of warmth and safety that makes for strength and support. Not a trace of cynicism or the discrete suffering of the bourgeoisie.
The interpretation of Dylan's folksong in a jazz context seems not to have made a difference. The explosive force in Dylan's simple words unfolds in the compassionate and understanding interplay, and slowly works up to a despairingly angry rock statement:
(he quotes again from the lyrics...)
A dilemma. And yet....
- Rolf Jager, Jazz Thetik, February, 2004
The legendary drummer of the Charlie Hunter Quartet, Scott Amendola, has devoted himself to Jazz-rock. This comes as no surprise, since he has worked with the likes of Bill Frisell or Jacky Terrasson, as well as the NY underground-group Sex Mob. Or with Nina Hagen....
On "Cry" we find elements of the blues, as well as the avant guard. All compositions (excepting two) are by S.A. Whether in seemingly chaotic improvs or rock-like ballads, the band proves its worth. Besides Scott Amendola on drums there are Jenny Scheinman on Violin, Nels Cline on guitar, Eric Crystal on Saxophones, and Todd Sickafoose on acoustic bass. Thanks to Jenny's beautiful violin passages, the nine-minute track "My Son, The Wanderer" is among the highlights of the album. "Cry" is perfectly produced, varied, and always captures the listener. Who could ask for more?
- Peggy Thiele, Jazzdimensions, January 2004
Drummer Scott Amendola is known from the Charlie Hunter Group. With his own band that includes violinist Jenny Scheinman, and guitarist Nels Cline, Amendola revels in autumnally, impressionistically colored Jazz-rock worlds. The sensitive constructions of the quintet sound like the Mahavishnu Orchestra in slow motion.
- Wolf Kampmann, HalbElf, November 2003
The American drummer Scott Amendola became known through his intensive collaboration with the Charlie Hunter Quartet. The long list of his credits is matched by the variety of musical activity. "Cry" is his second album as a leader and stays true to his musical direction. Basically, he indulges in Jazz-rock, but enriches it with many more elements than are commonly found - African, blues, cajun or spirituals. His songs are sometimes soft and dreamy, sometimes hard-grooving, and played by an excellent band that by no means should be missed in concert. "Cry" is definitely Scott Amendola’s strongest and most meaningful statement to date - he has obviously found his calling.
- Heinz Kronberger, Drums and Percussion, March/April 2004
Ego takes a back seat
For those who fear jazz fusion for its tendency to be littered with incomprehensible note flurries skittering around like a mailman on an icy sidewalk, rest easy. This Bay Area combo is more than capable of finding the right medium between soul and solo.
Orchestrated with the utmost finesse by drum deacon Scott Amendola, whose credits include stints with Charlie Hunter and Tony Furtado, the various players in his band never completely lose sight of the melodic terrain even while demonstrating the most inventive of chops.
Violinist Jenny Scheinman is a true rising star, rendering furious passages with requisite dexterity coupled with a sensitivity for simpler folk and ethnic styles. Guitarist Nels Cline holds up his end of the ladder, equally adept at textural shading and improvisational shredding.
In pieces such as “Bantu” and “Streetbeat,” the musicians artfully jump through some cool hoops, flirting with bebop and funkier Afro-jazz. On “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” they play it straight and respectful, adding a resonant layer of varnish to a mournful old spiritual from early last century.
Singer Carla Bozulich from the Geraldine Fibbers lends her formidable lung power to a spine-tingling version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” that’s as frightening as it is timely. Amendola and his team definitely keep things cooking, but it’s the absence of ego and indulgence that really sets the table.
Scott Amendola Band plays 8 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at Fez Ballroom, 316 S.W. 11th Ave., 503-221-7262, $8 advance, $10 day of show
- John Chandler, The Tribune, 3/28/2003
Scott Amendola: Diversity in the first degree
Gearheads at play. It's December, and Scott Amendola, a do-anything drummer who lives in the Bay Area, is in town on business. He's staying at the Culver City abode of guitar melter G.E. Stinson, with whom he's previously performed in numerous situations. They're hashing over a mutual obsession: vintage effects boxes. G.E. is jealous.
Stinson: "He's been collecting this one device that is the most coveted looping technology — the Electro Harmonix 16-second delay. And he's got three of them."
What does Amendola use this rare mid-'70s protodigital artifact for?
Amendola: "To sample myself. I've got this little pedal board, and I make weird loops and sounds." He finds employment for it with a couple of bands he's in — Crater and the Nels Cline Singers. "I do it primarily just to piss people off."
Stinson: "And it's working!"
Listen to Scott Amendola :
Yeah, that Scott Amendola is a pisser. Must be why everybody wants to play with him. Despite the 400 miles that separate his home from ours, he's in five bands with L.A. guitar star Nels Cline alone: the Singers, Crater, L. Stinkbug, the Carla Bozulich ensemble and (almost forgot) something called the Scott Amendola Band. He does side gigs, too, but he's honest enough with potential clients and neglectful enough of his own wallet that he sometimes turns down lucrative opportunities he doesn't feel right for.
He does, of course, suffer an occasional uncomfortable moment at the end of a sparse club night with one of his own groups. "Then you have to pay the band," says Amendola. "'You got change for a five?' 'Yeah, here's five dollar bills.' 'No, change for a nickel.'" That's when he flashes back to the sideman bankroll he passed up. "I'm thinking, 'You fucking idiot!'"
Scenes like that are really the exception. At 33, Amendola has been supporting himself as a musician for 10 years already. He's been on a bunch of albums; just out is the Amendola Band's Cryptogramophone Records debut, Cry. And crowds seem to be zeroing in on the electronically bedazzled Crater, of which he's a member — the group serves as a special peephole into the workings of the modern musical mind.
A week before the chat at Stinson's, Crater is cluttering up the stage of Santa Monica's Temple Bar. Wires and effects boxes are all over the place. And bandleaders are all over the place: Skinny bassist Todd Sickafoose and skinnier guitarist Nels Cline have their own groups; stringy-haired JHNO, manipulator of turntable, laptop and visual projections, often does a solo thing. There's a guest guitarist tonight: curly-locked Jeff Parker of the currently hot pop/art band Tortoise.
Crater breathes and grooves, breathes and grooves. Cline spiels a clean raga-type improvisation. Parker draws out some feedback before plunging into an effects-dripping solo. Sickafoose goes funky. JHNO disgorges aural smoke into the spaces between. Sometimes, Amendola just listens. Silence can be the perfect statement, he says. Otherwise, he sloshes à la Al Foster, or breaks loose into a clackety runaway-train rhythm, or gets all hermetic on his effects knobs.
Wah-wahs, crashing waves, underwater burbles, loops — after a while, as the steam builds, you can't tell which Crater member is playing what. Everything merges into a unity, a renunciation of self. And most of the time it adds up to fascinating music, for two reasons. One is that each of these players is himself a finely tuned receiver/amplifier. The other has to do with something Cline joked about before the performance, as he stood swirling amber poison in a little snifter: When you're dealing with electricity, be aware that you're not completely in charge. You can ride it, but you can't tame it.
As contemporary man melds with machine, life offers greater opportunities for trans-physical events, and these can be musical. When Amendola is composing, he often grabs an electric guitar. He talks about one day when he was getting busy with the instrument's satellites, the effects boxes. "I felt that I'd been practicing," he says, like a kid making excuses about his homework. "But I realized I hadn't touched the guitar in, like, an hour."
That pull toward sound abstraction has become a cultural touchstone: "Young people are so into electronic music — bands like Radiohead or Sigur Rós do these really interesting things with song. Or even someone like Elliott Smith, who sounds Beatlesque, but there's this strangeness to some of the production."
Just when you start stereotyping Amendola as a spark wizard, though, some other aspect of him breaks through. The groove monster. The avant-garde cymbal splasher.
Or the melodic jazz composer: That's the persona that dominates the Scott Amendola Band's acoustically oriented Cry, whose inspirations creep in from worldwide geographies. With Jenny Scheinman's mournful violin, the still ballad "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" could pass for Irish. So could "Bantu," which, in spite of its title and Cline's Afrobeat guitar, feels a lot like a jig. The long jam "A Cry for John Brown" floats on Amendola and Sickafoose's neo-Latin pontoons, decorated with Eric Crystal's tumbling sax and Cline's fret blaze. The slow-flowing "My Son, the Wanderer" draws on a rarely referenced Ellingtonian Arab-Indian vibe. By way of contrast, the CD showcases some radical textural improv, but the most anomalous selection, and the one that gives Cry the most gravity, is an all-out noise orgy on Bob Dylan's "Masters of War," sung with throat-ripping passion by guest artist Bozulich. Those who doubt the power of peace need to hear this.
All these variegated fruits are essentials in Amendola's musical cornucopia, naturally reflecting his own tastes. On one hand he likes Pat Metheny and Peter Gabriel; edgier imprints were etched after he left his native New Jersey for Berklee College of Music in Boston, the town where he heard outsiders like drummer Jim Black and hung with musicians whose heads had been turned by the theories of bop-era renegade pianist Lennie Tristano. Upon arrival in the Bay Area in 1992, Amendola gained visibility through association with guitar phenom Charlie Hunter (with whom he drummed from 1993 to 1997), and gained entrée to the L.A. crowd via the constantly traveling NoCal saxist Philip Greenlief. Among many other gigs, he's worked in a trio with Sickafoose and pianist Art Hirahara, and played with Jim Thirlwell (Foetus) when Thirlwell scheduled a couple of club dates last year.
None of this suggests that Amendola much cares to merge with the mainstream. But to hell with it, you know? Our personal circuits are all getting interconnected anyway; who needs corporate conglomerates?
"It would be great if the record industry just totally bottomed out. If all these companies — like, three of them own everything, right? — went bankrupt, how great would that be? Because it has to restructure itself. It probably would take a while, but it would be really interesting."
- Greg Burk, LA Weekly, Feb. 28-March 6th issue
Crying through the drums
(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., May 8, 2003) – Scott Amendola isn’t sure how to feel when people tell him they like his record because it doesn’t sound like a record a drummer would make.
“Should I be flattered by that?” asked Amendola, who performs with his jazz-groove quintet at Club Helsinki next Wednesday, May 14, at 8.
What probably surprises people about the music on “Cry” (CryptoGramophone), Amendola’s latest CD, is its melodic quality and its willingness to cede the focus to other instrumentalists, including violinist Jenny Scheinman, guitarist Nels Cline and saxophonist Eric Crystal.
Although he is the bandleader and a drummer, Amendola doesn’t write for himself. He writes with the ensemble in mind, and he draws from a wide palette for his compositions.
“Composing is really an individual thing based on the personality of the composer rather than the instrument he plays,” said Amendola, a New Jersey native, Berklee College alumnus, and member of the Grammy Award-nominated jazz group, T.J. Kirk, in a recent phone interview.
“I tend to hear very melodically,” said Amendola, who for several years in the late-‘90s held down the drum seat in the Charlie Hunter Quartet, led by the innovative, Bay Area guitarist. “I start from melodies, and sometimes I’ll write a whole song, or sometimes I’ll have just a bass line or a fragment of a melody.
“Lately what I’ve been writing is more on the ballad side or more on the freer side. But then I’ll write something completely different. There’s no formula. It just comes to me. I can’t force it.”
As heard on “Cry,” Amendola’s compositions are colorful pictures that draw on a variety of inspirations, including African music, jazz, blues, spirituals, rock and world music, particularly Middle Eastern.
When Amendola composes, he has in mind the particular sound and sensibility of the players in his band.
“Some ideas I come up with are not right for this group,” he said. “But more times than not, the ideas work with this group. I’m hearing these particular instruments right now. The violin is just so incredibly expressive on all levels, and Jenny as a player is so expressive and listens to so many different types of music. She can be the most subtlest, quietest little bird, and then can be the tractor-trailer riding down the highway. My music calls for that.”
Scheinman is a virtuoso violinist who studied at Oberlin Conservatory and has worked with Aretha Franklin, Bill Frisell, Myra Melford, John Zorn, Cecil Taylor and Charming Hostess. Her own recordings include “Live at Yoshi’s,” “Eat” and “The Rabbi’s Lover.”
“I’ve known Jenny a long time and we’ve played together a lot,” said Amendola. “There’s so much about her playing and her personality that I absolutely love. And violin is my most favorite instrument in the world.
“Everyone in my band – they’re all incredibly deep musicians where there are no borders. And that’s really important for me when I bring in my music. It’s all over the map. And what really makes it a whole is the fact that all of us see that and we all can take this music and make it our thing. It’s not my thing; it’s our thing. It really is a special thing.”
Amendola said the musicians in his group play a role in shaping his compositions. “The band comes up with certain ideas around what I’m writing harmonically,” he said. “They’re all harmonic geniuses. You can write two notes on a piece of paper and put it in front of them and they’ll come up with incredible music.”
As a composer, Amendola finds motivation and inspiration from various sources, including politics and culture.
With titles like “Bantu,” “A Cry for John Brown,” and “Rosa,” much of the material on “Cry” was clearly intended to address civil rights and African-American history.
“I wrote ‘Rosa’ on the day that the U.S. invaded Afghanistan,” said Amendola. “I was thinking about Rosa Parks and how one person could make a difference, and how we all have a voice. I just look at this woman who grew up in the South as a woman of color, for whom at the time it was incredibly difficult to make a statement, yet she did.”
Amendola was also moved to explore the various aspects of the title. “The word ‘cry’ means so many different things -- joyful, sad, anger, rage, uniting. That’s why I called it that. That’s what the music was about -- a reaching out, a speaking out and making a really loud statement, but also making a very personal statement.”
When people ask Amendola what kind of music he plays, he is hard-pressed to come up with an adequate answer.
“I get asked that question a lot, when I’m traveling and people see me carrying my cymbal bag, and I meet people and they ask what I play,” he said. “It stumps me. It’s kind of jazz-based, but it’s not traditional jazz. It’s improvisationally-based, but it’s based on melodies and grooves and ballads. I describe the instrumentation. It’s hard to get across references like Bill Frisell and John Zorn, and it’s difficult to summarize because there are African influences, Americana influences, songs, jazz and fusion influences.
“The best compliment anyone ever gave me was when Chris Wood of Medeski, Martin and Wood heard us play and afterwards he came up and said to me, ‘You’ve created your own voice.’
“I feel like I’ve done that with these musicians, and they’re a huge part of that. I hate the idea of labels. To me music is one thing, whether I’m playing with Kelly Joe Phelps or Nels Cline or Stinkbug. It’s all the same thing. I’m sitting behind the drums playing music, reacting to sounds, hitting the drums and cymbals. It really is the same thing and I approach everything that way. I just feel like it’s wide open and I think it’s hard for most people to understand that.
“People who go out and buy a Norah Jones record might not understand mine right away, but I think if they’re exposed to it and listen to it for a while, they will.”
- Seth Rogovoy, Berkshire Eagle, 5/3/03
Drummer Scott Amendola graduated from Berklee in the early 90s and moved to San Francisco, where he soon made a name for himself playing in guitarist Charlie Hunter's group. His skill at maintaining a pulse in wide-open terrain and stoking imperturbable grooves has landed him plenty of work since then: he's flourished in projects with broad appeal (Hunter, the quartet called T.J. Kirk, Oranj Symphonette) as well as in more rigorous settings (Paul Plimley Trio, Jenny Scheinman's group, with Pat Martino). His work with his own band falls somewhere in between. A few years ago he made a nice splash with his self-released eponymous debut album--a rock-tinged outing that relied too heavily on Bill Frisell-style pastoralism--but his new disc, Cry (Cryptogramophone), demonstrates not just his range as a drummer but also his reach as a composer. The jaunty "Bantu" stretches its melody over Afrobeat grooves and heavy Jamaican syncopation like a gauzy curtain, while "Whisper, Scream" ditches melody altogether in favor of a grueling bout of noisy free playing. The covers are no less remarkable: Scheinman's violin imparts weightless solemnity to Amendola's adaptation of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," a turn-of-the-century gospel tune later interpreted by Ethel Waters, and Carla Bozulich of the Geraldine Fibbers delivers Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" as a rant while instrumental chaos boils underneath. Amendola's choice of players also deserves credit. While there's nothing particularly special about the zigzagging melody in "A Cry for John Brown," guitarist Nels Cline brings it to life with a solo that spirals ahead with increasing intensity. Scheinman and reedist Eric Crystal work exceptionally well in tandem, delivering tightly registered unison lines or playing just off each other to give the music greater motion and depth--although I'm not crazy about Crystal's soprano sax work, where his tone is flimsy and his phrasing sappy. Through it all Amendola does what he needs to do, whether helming thick grooves or driving the detailed explorations of color forward.
- Peter Margasak, May 2, 2003