The Album Reviewed:
CD | DOWNLOAD
- Last Chance (Make Your Move) (6:55)
- 59th Street Blues (7:38)
- Redlacquer Blue (6:57)
- Slow Zig (7:08)
- Hymn (8:03)
- Manic Depression (4:26)
- One Of These Things First (7:05)
- Diana Maria (7:59)
- This Is Sad (5:44)
- Johnny X (0:54)
Jenny Scheinman - violin
Dave Mac Nab - electric guitar
Eric Crystal - saxophones
Todd Sickafoose - acoustic bass
Scott Amendola - drums
Produced by Scott Amendola and Cookie Marenco
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Cookie Marenco at OTR Studios,
"If Scott Amendola didn't exist, the San Francisco
music scene would have to invent him. It's tempting to call the
flexible New Jersey native the Rob Burger of the drums, for like
Burger (the ubiquitous accordion/keyboard-player of Tin Hat Trio
et. al.), Amendola crops up on records from innumerable musical
niches. Since settling in San Francisco in 1992, he has played
with guitarists Charlie Hunter, Will Bernard, Bill Frisell and
Pat Martino, singer Noe Venable, koto player Miya Masaoka, bluegrass-fusion
picker Tony Furtado, pianist Paul Plimley, saxophonist Phillip
Greenlief, and clarinetist Ben Goldberg, among others. And he's
anchored the bands TJ Kirk, Oranj Symphonette, and Snorkel. But
he obviously has an original muse pacing around inside his brain,
champing at the bit to get out and express itself. Of Scott Amendola Band's
ten tracks, only three are covers, and those (Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression," Fela Anikulopo
Kuti's "This Is Sad," and Nick Drake's "One Of These Things First")
serve as specific frames for the edgy and bluesy rock, African polyrhythmic,
and wistfully melodic elements that Amendola integrates into his
own compositions. Guitarist Dave MacNab, saxophonist Eric Crystal,
violinist Jenny Scheinman, and bassist Todd Sickafoose are the empathetic
co-conspirators in Amendola's scheme to undermine expectations at
every turn. This is a "new jazz" recording, but that label falls
short of capturing the difference between, say, the gripping North
Oakland raunchiness of "59th St. Blues," the slinky bounce of "Slow
Zig," the densely orchestrated Ornette Coleman-like cry of "Hymn," and
the spacious and tender violin-centric poignancy of "Diana Maria," all
of which indicate that Amendola is doing a fine job of inventing
himself, and his music, on his own terms."
- Derk Richardson, San Francisco Bay Guardian, August 16th,
The Jazz That Goes Boom
"Attention Tigre and Bunny; if you still like the boom, Scott Amendola is your man. This guy is one of the best drummers I have seen in any genre ever. I mean, who really thinks about drums that much-they make the pretty-pretty thump-thump and everything, but unless Rikki Rocket is spinning about the crowd with fireworks shooting out of his sticks, I’m not necessarily thinking too much about them, you know?
When Amendola’s playing, though, you often can’t think about anything else. He is so fluid and inventive and freakin’ surprising on every song. So now with this solo project of his, the confounding named Scott Amendola Band, he can hang out on his little drum Kit Central Command and whack away while the band members riff on his beats, and Friday night at Kuumbwa it was working out pretty well. Personally some of my favorite works of Amendola’s has been as a foil playing off of guitarists Charlie Hunter and Will Bernard, so I have to say I probably got the most out of the time he spent knocking around groovy rock melodies with always-trippy guitarist Nels Cline. Plus, it’s hard to have any more fun watching the drums than checking out Amendola with that gigantic grin-when he really gets into it, he gets this kind of crazed Mephistophelian look that is so fuckin’ adorable. Dude is rad".
- Steve Palopoli, Santa Cruz weekly paper
Scott Amendola Shows evidence here of the groove-oriented hip-bop he played with Charlie Hunter and the edgy funk of the Will Bernard group. But the album is its own mixed bag. The sound is very San Francisco-Jenny Scheinman’s violin brings to mind It’s a Beautiful Day and Jefferson Airplane at times, Dave Mac Nab’s psychedelic guitar etchings fill the air with swirling textures. Amendola has his own sound on the kit too, and with a command or beats,and feeling is able to rein in the eclectic, freewheeling affair.
- Modern Drummer, August 2001
When a drummer makes and album and write most of the tunes, I am always extra curious, because I am uncertain how strong the melodies will be. What I do expect is for there to be a lot of space for the musicians, and that a clear tone will best by the pace and style of the drummer. Amendola penned seven of ten songs on this album, while covering Jimi Hendrix, Nick Drake, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The opening track, “Last Chance, “ is instantly engaging; there is tension from the get go. The beat is mildly reminiscent of Hendrix’ “Driving South” and the overall mood fives a nod to The Eleventh House guitarist Dave Mac Nab and saxophonist Eric Crystal trade licks and create powerful point-counterpoint. But while the Eleventh House sometimes seemed caught in speed contest, the players here thankfully seem more concerned with creating a mood. The album has a healthy does of avant-garde while always maintaining a connection to rock or rock fusion. Jenny Scheinman’s violin takes over where Mac Nab and Crystal leave off; her tone is dark and brooding, building the tension back up, slowly, patiently with an element of sorrow that fist perfectly. Amendola has done an admirable job; his drumming is first rate and equally important, he has picked musicians to work with who truly seem to compliment the sound he is looking for. The melodies are catchy and effective, but it is this space that creates the powerful atmosphere pervasive on the recording. This one’s a brooding, story disc with first rate play, quite enjoyable and definitely recommended.
- Paul Doyle, Jr., Signal To Noise- the journal of improvised & experimental music, Summer, 2001
Scott Amendola is a renowned drummer, noted mostly for his participation in groups led by guitarist Charlie Hunter, including the delicious side-project T.J. Kirk, a quartet that includes Amendola, Hunter, and two other guitarists and is committed to passionately presenting a repertory that recalls the songs of Thelonious Monk, James Brown, and Roland Kirk.
Now he leads his own quintet, comprised of the fabulous violinist Jenny Scheinman (who just recently came out on Avant Live at Yoshi's which includes musical selections not entirely different from those contained on the album discussed here); the excellent guitarist Dave Mac Nab, who straddles both psychedelic rock and more avant garde jazz; the saxophonist Eric Crystal; and the acoustic bassist Todd Sickafoose.
The album is very interesting, bold and generous, with diverse music that marries the exuberance of a group of talented young instrumentalists with the determination with the ideas of its leader. Some songs remind one of the groovier works by Ronald Shannon Jackson or certain moments in Ornette Coleman's Prime Time. On other occasions the scent of the West Coast and the influences of Seattle come through. Here Scott Amendola's group brings to mind the excellent quartet Zony Mash led by the ineffable Wayne Horvitz.
The songs are all written by Scott Amendola with the exception of an original version of Jimi Hendrix's Manic Depression; the sweet One of These Things First by Nick Drake; and This is Sad by Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
The latter is surely another strong influence in the music of the quintet, even though it lacks the polytextural rhythm found in the African musician's large bands. Scheinman's violin often dominates the interweaving timbres and her spirited playing turns one's mind to Jerry Goodman of Flock and of the early Mahavishnu Orchestra. In a special way the beautiful, angular blues 59th St. Blues offers original solutions for fraying the obligatory, incorruptible 12-bar formula.
The version of Hendrix's song is decidedly anomalous: it would appear that the manic depression evoked and exorcized 30 years ago by the left-handed guitarist of Seattle evolved into a sort of manic but serene contemplation, as if it were cured by a little Prozac.
There isn't the ferocity of late 60s rock, but simply an ardent exploration of a mysterious melody, removed from the usual rhythmic scansion, deconstructed and distilled with great love. The creation that emerges appears like a sort of faint simulacrum of the song that is by now in the collective memory, a fascinating romantic replica like Sean Young as the beautiful witch in Blade Runner, a sort of disquieting representation of the future that had already happened in 1982. Not bad, to be sure.
A word of advice: Go to Scott Amendola's website (www.scottamendola.com) and download for your great pleasure, an entire concert in MP3 that the drummer, quite generously, puts at your disposal. The live version features the same performers as the CD, with the exception of Jenny Scheinman. Here, she is substituted by another violinist, Carla Kihlstedt of Tin Hat Trio. The remaining 6 songs are by the quartet. An even more satisfying offer, always free, is the download of a concert with Scott Amendola at the head of his trio. In both cases the music is excellent. The free download is provided for a limited time, so download it as soon as possible. I'm sure it will make you want to run out and buy a copy of the disc.
- Maurizio Comandini, All About Jazz-Italy
Like a CD Changer
The Scott Amendola Band offers and unconventional listening experience
When the Scott Amendola band comes to the Cubberly Community Center on Thursday, music lovers will be given the opportunity to listen to something they’ve never heard before –but then, so will the band. With a heavy emphasis on off-the-cuff jamming, the group sounds different every time they play.“For me it’s all about improvisation and opening up the music so that anything can happen, “ Amendola says in his husky voice. Which isn’t to say that the groups doesn’t write songs. On the contrary, the 31-year-old Amendola- a drummer educated at the renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mass- composes and arranges all of the music to fit his sax, violin, guitar, bass and drum unit to a tee.
“As I write music, I think of these four people specifically,” he says.
Amendola’s composition style is best described as modern free jazz, with a heavy emphasis on improvisation and dissonance. Amendola says he’s been influenced by everything from eccentric jazz musicians –such as Ornette Coleman and Thelonious Monk – to mainstream rock band – like Led Zepplin and Radiohead – to African music.“We’re not one thing; we’re like a CD changer, “Amendola says. “To me, that’s where music is headed and I think that’s cool.” This means the Scott Amendola band almost never sounds conventional. Behind the drum set – his facial expressions alternating between looks of concentration and pain - Amendola plays an extraordinary prominent role in the band. Using sticks, brushes, and even his hands, the drummer adds his touch to every song, changing his playing at will to change his inner vision.
Likewise, the band’s music can spontaneously shift into a completely different style. It’s not uncommon for members to toy with the songs key, rhythm and even tempo if it suits their fancy. A musician may drop out mid-tune, leaving the other four a new scenario, and them come back when the time is right. “They’re really deep musicians, and they’re really heavy improvisers.” Amendola says. “ I could hand them a blank piece of paper and say, ‘play’, and something great would happen. There’s so many possibilities musically.”
Of course, endless possibilities also lead to their share of pitfalls. At times, as Amendola and his cohorts – guitarist Dave Mac Nab, bassist Todd Sickafoose, violinist Jenny Scheinman, and Eric Crystal on reeds – reach for a next level of expression, their music hits rough waters. One member may fall off a beat or out of key for a time, or the parts may simply sound at odds with one another. But even during the awkward moments, Amendola cherishes the right of every musician to fully express him or herself. For Amendola music is something sacred that demands complete honesty and individuality. “Everybody gets to be themselves in the music.” he says. “That’s the only thing I know how to do anymore.”
And when musicians snap back into place, they sound that much sweeter for having been so sour. One of the finest drummers around, once Amendola hits his stride and locks with the other musicians, there’s nothing else like it. Whether the song is jazzy, funky or mellow, the musicians can transcend their parts and take the audience along to a different plane of thinking. “The thing is everyone is coming from the same place, and everyone is listening so hard and trusts each other, “ Amendola explains over a frothy cup of Chai tea. “This is really an ideal band for me.”
Even before he formed his self-titled group, Amendola played with one great musician after another. After moving to San Francisco in 1992, he hooked-up with guitarist Charlie Hunter, John Schott, and Will Bernard to form the T.J. Kirk. The innovative group was eventually nominated for a Grammy. Since then, he has played with such musicians as the Charlie Hunter Quartet, Bill Frisell, Pat Martino, Phil Lesh, and many others. Not to mention all the Bay Area bands with whom he currently performs, including Noe Venable and Tony Furtado. But, the one consistency between all of the bands with whom Amendola has played is a willingness to experiment and add personal flairs to the music.
“All the bands I’ve been involved with have been taking things in a different way,” he says. And as long as he’s able to keep expressing himself musically, Amendola will be happy.“I want to be able to make whatever music I want and have people appreciate it,” he says. It’s really fun, and I just want to stay positive and enjoy it.”
- Stephen Raphael, San Jose Mercury News, September, 14th, 2000