EAST BAY EXPRESS
New and Improv’d Drummer Scott Amendola isn’t afraid of anything – even a groove.
"Jazz" is a pejorative term for Scott Amendola.
Not in the sense of disrespecting the form or its legacy -after all, he credits the likes of
Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk with bringing him to asort of "awakening" in his late teens. But the drummer says he doesn't want to be confined by the strictures of one genre, even if the cost of freedomis a significant drop in album sales. "We're so beyond the idea of a jazz festival," he says, adding that the idea of categorizing music at all really sticks in his craw. He's not a traditionalist. It's just not that deep.
Since settling in the Bay Area roughly fifteen years ago, Amendola has worked with innumerable musicians, including the Nels Cline Singers,
Thelonious Monk tribute group Plays Monk, and organist Will Blades, who recently collaborated with Amendola to arrange Duke Ellington's "Far East Suite" for duo. He does all sorts of funky things with his drum set. While he hasn't gone so far as to set it on fire with a blowtorch, he'll bang different parts of it, or press a stick up against a cymbal, or throw shakers and rattles to get a more clamorous sound. Amendola also composes a lot of sample-driven music, using guitar pedals, loopers, a chaos pad, and a mixing board. He'll often sing into a tape machine and then play back the melodies on a thumb piano.
The drummer admits he went through a long period of self-scrutiny to establish that he's doing all this because it's musical, and not because
he's trying to be iconoclastic or cool. "A lot of times when you're playing music that's supposed to be that open, there's this idea that you can't play a groove because the groove is, like, taboo," he says, indicating how easy it is for improvised music to devolve into highbrow wankery. But the best cats know that "open" is actually code for "anything goes." "The real leaders of that music demonstrate that. That's what separates the real improvisers -- the real musicians -- from the bullshit. And there's a lot of bullshit out there."