Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Scott Amendola Band – Believe (Cryptogramophone, 2005)

Drummer Scott Amendola is comfortable and active in a number of musical areas. He used to be the drummer for Charlie Hunter’s band, backs the Billie Holiday-ish singer Madeleine Peyroux, and also leads a couple of bands of his own – one groove based, and then a more experimental outfit. The experimental group is documented here, where Amendola is joined by Nels Cline and Jeff Parker on guitars, Jenny Scheinman on violin and John Shifflett on acoustic bass. The music is all over the map, from aching ballads to over the top blowouts.

The disc kicks off with the title track “Believe” which features light percussion and some processed guitar, creating a very Bill Frisell like sound. Both Parker and Cline have worked with electronics and guitar effects in the past. Some violin sneaks in to add to the texture of the composition. “Oladipo” starts out funky with the violin stating the melody over an insistent beat. Again, some processed guitar gives everything a funky fusion feel, which moves into an extended guitar solo with driving drums underneath. “Shady” has a quiet solo guitar opening, again taking it’s inspiration from Bill Frisell’s tone and plays off against the violin as it enters. Scheinman takes a wonderful violin solo which is at the same time melodic and folk-ish, much like the violin players that used to join Albert Ayler during his mid 60’s romps through folk and old-time melodies.

“If Only Once” is a ballad with some beautiful, longing violin work. Jenny Scheinman has really been making a mark for herself in the jazz world both with Bill Frisell and her solo albums on Tzadik. Her work on this CD is particularly impressive. Amendola keeps the thunder at bay on this song to add some gentle and subtle brushwork. Then for something completely different, “Buffalo Bird Woman” begins in an abstract way with deeply plucked bass. Grinding country-ish violin and snarling twin guitars give the music a Neil Young and Crazy Horse feel. The disc is rounded out with “Resistance” which is an epic blowout in which the two guitarists stretch out and howl. Amendola is deeply opposed to the Iraq war, and this song is reminiscent of the version of “Masters of War” he recorded on his last Cryptogramophone CD. This is a well-done and album full of creative music. The sound of two electric guitars with violin is a unique one and this really makes the band stand out in the competitive creative music scene.

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