Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Claudia Quintet, Dead Kenny G's blow minds

Posted by T. Ballard Lesemann on Wed, Oct 10, 2007 at 3:48 PM

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Good heavens, my mind is going crazy. Last night (Oct. 9), I sat among some of Charleston’s finest young jazz and concert musicians and students and caught n impressive set from the Claudia Quintet’s hour-long set at the Recital Hall of the Simons Center. Presented by the New Music Collective and the College of Charleston’s Jazz Department, it was an intense session of rhythmically and harmonically complex music … sort of an instrumentally worldly chamber-jazz thing with wild dynamics.

When he wasn’t fiddling around with various mallets, sticks, brushes, bells, chimes, and woodblocks (during the songs!), drummer, composer, and soft-spoken bandleader John Hollenbeck took moments between songs to explain the ideas behind them — ideas inspired by old Carpenters and Stan Kenton cassettes, family funerals, love affairs, and Buddhist mentors. Vibes player Matt Moran’s mallet work was terrific. The whole band played waaaaaay out there.

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Later in the night, over at the Pour House on James Island, the club staff had the front doors locked until about 10:15 p.m. while instrumental trio The Dead Kenny G’s finished a late-late sound check (they rolled straight in from a gig in Mississippi). Just before show time, I noticed drummer/percussionist Mike Dillon applying duct tape to his top hi-hat cymbal. “Hey man, do you need hi-hat clutch?” I asked. “You actually have one on hand? Hell yeah! I left mine in New Orleans,” he replied. Sometimes leaving one’s drum gear in the car trunk comes in handy. At the one set break, he basically traded me a copy of his new disc, Battery Milk, by the Go-Go Jungle.

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Comprised of three members of Critters Buggin’ — sax player Skerik (also of Les Claypool’s band, Tuatara, Syncopated Taint Quintet), Dillon (also of Les Claypool, Hairy Apes BMX, Go-Go Jungle), and upright/electric bassist Brad Houser (ex-Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians) — they performed one of the weirdest, most schizophrenic instrumental gigs I’ve ever seen or heard. They call it “funky deconstruction of jazz.”

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The trio played aggressively, veering from one stylistic extreme to the other, never stopping. Dillon seemed to conduct and cue the band, switching from kick/snare/cymbals to marimba and vibes to tabla and back. Skerik’s wild sax work bounced and sang over the top of it, often enhanced and heavily distorted by a battery of effects pedals (see photo at left). Sometimes, the horn sounded more like a three-guitar heavy-metal onslaught than a normal reed instrument. Mind-blowing stuff, indeed.


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