February 4, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO GATE
SCOTT AMENDOLA: JAZZ DRUMMER'S BIRTHDAY BASH
By Andrew Gilbert
Scott Amendola admits to feeling a little angst about his impending
birthday, but instead of moping at home the indispensable Bay Area drummer
decided to mark the end of his fourth decade with a high-powered musical
gathering. Raised in New Jersey, he's been at the center of the Bay Area
music scene since his arrival in the early 1990s, when he helped spark a
populist jazz movement with 8-string guitar wizard Charlie Hunter's
guitar-laden funk jazz combo T.J. Kirk.
Since then Amendola has become an acclaimed bandleader in his own right, and
a creative catalyst for a panoply of improvisers. He's invited an aptly
disparate cast of players to celebrate his 40th birthday on Friday at Cafe
Du Nord, from his early comrade, the groovaholic Hunter, to a more recent
connection, the volatile Chicago guitarist Jeff Parker (a crucial addition
to the seminal post-rock band Tortoise). Among the other players featured
are bassist Devin Hoff and clarinetist Ben Goldberg, who both often perform
with Amendola in Plays Monk, bassist John Shifflett, and the crafty
Denver-based trumpeter Ron Miles, best known for his extensive work with
"A while ago my wife was asking, 'Should we do something for your birthday?'
And I kept saying, 'I don't want to talk about it,' " Amendola says. "But
Charlie is out here for a bunch of gigs, and ever since the days of his trio
we have this great connection. I decided to fly Jeff Parker out, because
we've been playing a lot. I'm still a little leery about the whole birthday
thing, but I have a feeling as soon as I walk in and see everybody, that's
going to change. Forty is an interesting age, but it's just a good excuse to
get a lot of great musicians together."
At the center of Friday's celebration is Go Home, a new quartet led by
clarinetist Ben Goldberg featuring Amendola, Hunter and Miles. It combines
sinuous intertwined horn lines with earthy grooves emanating from the drums
and guitar. Go Home makes its West Coast debut tonight at Santa Cruz's
Kuumbwa Jazz Center, and also plays Saturday at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage
and Sunday at 142 Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley.
"When I first got us all together in New York, I had no idea what it would
sound like, but I knew Scott and Charlie would cook up some monstrous
grooves, and we'd have fun," Goldberg says. "I like to have some moving
harmony parts for Ron and me. So I provide one side of it, and Charlie and
Scott provide the whole other side."
For Amendola, the point of his birthday bash isn't to orchestrate an evening
of music, it's to unleash the creative energy generated by a critical mass
of supremely expressive improvisers. "They're such great musicians, I'm not
worried about anything," he says. "We might do some older stuff of mine I
haven't played for a while. Or I might just create some loops beforehand and
let 'em fly in the air."