Scott Amendola is
probably best known as the drummer with the Nels
Cline Singers, a guitar trio with detailed compositions, high-energy
improvisations, and an oft-exhibited ability to shift gears at
a moment's notice. On Lift, his first album since 2005's Believe (Cryptogramophone),
Amendola debuts his own take on the guitar trio format, with guitarist Jeff
Parker and bassist John Shifflett. Most of his compositions
follow standard jazz structures built upon mid-tempo grooves, with
unique melodies that sit deep in the pocket. Parker's tasteful,
well-constructed melodic playing and Shifflett's deep, understated
presence are the perfect compliments to Amendola's singular rhythms,
which propel the tunes while drawing on unique tones and timbres
played on a drum kit complimented by metallic objects and electronic
Amendola announces the beginning of Lift with
a regal one-minute drum solo that builds into "Tudo De Bom," a
danceable mid-tempo Latin tune that sets the tone of the album.
While each track has a unique feel, almost all have funky underpinnings,
helping to make Lift a strong, cohesive set. Amendola's
melodies are strong and also keep the record together thematically.
That tracks like the bluesy "Lima Bean," and the textural, effects-laden
swirl of "Cascade," fit so nicely on the same album is a testament
to the composer's melodic sensibility.
Jeff Parker takes strong solos throughout Lift.
By Flower," a modern fusion throw-down that is the album's heaviest
track, Parker plays an aggressive noise solo that twists through
the rhythmic maelstrom created by Shifflett and Amendola. He
manages to be tasteful, and his ideas are clear as the he shifts
tones while hurling frantic lines of chaos. "Tudo De Bom" finds
Parker playing a more stylistically jazz solo that sits deep
in the pocket, and his vintage tremolo-effected solo on "The
Knife" rocks over the pounding, straight-eighth rhythm.
Shifflett and Amendola have a deep rhythmic
relationship. The drummer drives the band forward with his
singular rhythmic vocabulary, while the bassist helps provide
a subtle intensity. Shifflett is a utilitarian player who keeps
his bass deep in the pocket, providing a powerful counterpart
to Amendola's drumming. His solo that opens "Blues for Istanbul" is melodic and moving, and
his bluesy solo on "The Knife" is strong and commanding.
Lift is another great example of Amendola's significant
talent as a drummer, composer, and bandleader. He has created
an album of strong tunes with great band mates and drives the
record with his masterful drumming.