Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Steve Kimock: Further Adventures

Before this March, it had been over three years since Steve Kimock had hit the road to tour with his own band. Fortunately for those of us who lurk in this part of the world, he closed out the last tour of the Steve Kimock Band in 2006 with a series of gigs in North Carolina, one in Asheville, and the last, a few days later, in Carrboro, only three and a half hours east by interstate. As I mentioned in a post at the time, they were excellent shows.

Since then there have been many sit-ins and one-off gigs, jams and shows in various repeated configurations, more shows, up until the death of horn player Martin Fierro, integral to Zero's sound, with his old band Zero than any time since 1998, and lots of good playing. Very little of it, though, occurred in the context of Kimock's own material, which is, for me, where he best displays his gift for the architecture of sound.

The most interesting of his various recurrent gigs, for me at least, Grateful Dead fan that I am (or was; I have to admit that I've put their work aside for the last few years. So much music to explore, so little time), have been his performances with various former members of that band. He was an integral part of the Rhythm Devils during their tour in the summer and fall of 2006, along with Micky Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mike Gordon, and during the summer and fall of 2007 he toured with Ratdog, Bob Weir's band, filling in for Mark Karan, who was undergoing treatment for cancer. He toured again with Hart in 2008.

Hart appreciated Kimock's strengths as a player, of course; they've played together in various configurations through the years. The context of the Devils, though, with its emphasis on percussion, didn't often give him room to stretch out.

Ratdog proved a more congenial context. In fact, Kimock sometimes transformed that band's sound. Weir said that he found himself astonished five or six times every show, and if you listen to the shows, you'll hear why.

In the summer of 2008, the Mickey Hart Band included more players on strings and keys, and proved a fine context for Kimock's style of extended playing. Their July shows are still worth a listen.

Curiously, before working with these post-Dead bands, Kimock had little relation to the Dead's material. He wasn't a Deadhead; he had his own work to do. And when he helped form Zero, it wasn't to play Dead material. The Zero songbook was much less rooted in Appalachian Americana, more bluesy, and their playing, initially driven by the guitars of Kimock and Quicksilver Messenger Service veteran John Cipollina, sounded very little like the Dead's, even if both groups explored the boundaries of small band improvisation.

During Mark Karan's convalescence, Blair Jackson interviewed him and relayed this recollection at
Kimock's been playing the Dead material now for years, and has played with almost every band that's emerged from the Dead family, from Missing Man Formation, The Other Ones, Phil Lesh and Friends, to the current incarnations of the Rhythm Devils and Ratdog. He may not have been so well versed in the material initially; Mark Karan said awhile back that Kimock often got credit for his work when they were both in The Other Ones.

That tour with The Other Ones went down in 1998. By the next year and the 1999 incarnation of Phil Lesh and Friends, though, there's no disputing that Kimock's playing on Dead classics was magisterial and magnificent. Listen, for instance, to the version of the Dead standard "Terrapin Station" from 10/23/1999 (but give yourself plenty of time, since it's forty-five minutes long - and worth every minute. If you're too busy for the whole song, hang in through the twelve minute mark for an extra-tasty ensemble transition ). The jamming is sharp and tight, and offers a richer development of the song's motifs, especially the later, Terrapin-proper, ones, than any other version I know - including, even, any ever played by the Dead. Paul Barrere (of Little Feat) plays wonderful counterpoint to Kimock's "anti-gravity guitar"- that's Phil's description - and Bill Payne (also of Little Feat) complements the guitars with powerful and tasteful playing on keys.

Still, the material in which Steve Kimock is most at home is his own, and the tour with his new band, Crazy Engine, featuring Melvin Seals on keys, Trevor Exter on bass and vocals, and John Morgan Kimock (Steve's son) on drums, gives those of us who are his fans new cause to rejoice as we prepare for transport on the waves of sound Kimock generates with his guitar.

Steve Kimock and Crazy Engine play the Orange Peel Thursday, November 12. Doors at 8:00, show at 9:00 PM. Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door.

The video features a Crazy Engine version of Kimock's composition "A New Africa" from July 25.

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Blogger Dana said...

Hey there Jeff!

Nice blog re SK! hope you're well friend!

7:38 PM  

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