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Published: 2001/12/04
by Dan Greenhaus

Uncle Sammy, Knitting Factory, NYC- 11/30

It would be impossible to write a review, or have any memory of this past
weekend without beginning with George Harrison. Anyone of us who consider
music to be a major part of our lives cannot downplay the importance,
relevance and influence that the Beatles have had over all of music. As a subscriber to the
"less-is-more" theory of guitar playing, he laid the groundwork for
thousands of guitar players thereafter who were interested in playing "for
the good of the song".

As for the shows, it was one of the better Uncle Sammy shows in recent
memory. The Knitting Factory is an interesting venue in that it features
multiple levels and allows more than one band to play at one time. Brothers Past
was downstairs in the significantly smaller (and hotter) room, while Uncle
Sammy was upstairs in the main room. The Brothers Past room was
consistently filled as they churned out their brand of progressive music
while Uncle Sammy's room was about half filled, although that main room is pretty big.

Uncle Sammy came out and played a blistering first set, highlighted by by a
great "Sociology" with some "Exodus" teases, which just happens
to be one of my favorite Bob Marley songs. The band exhibited plenty of energy as
they were obviously excited to be playing at the Knit. One thing I did notice, however,
was the lack of any "real" lighting system at all. A very bland combination
of blue and orange lights stayed on the whole time which definitely did not
add anything. The rest of the set was good as well, however nothing else
quite reached the heights of "Sociology" which segued beautifully into
"Recycle Now."

During intermission, I strolled downstairs to check out some of the Brothers
Past set. However, I was unable to stay too long as it must have been five
hundred degrees in the room they were playing in. I was there long
enough to notice that the band sounded significantly better than the last
time I had heard them, tighter and more focussed in their playing.

Moving back upstairs, Sammy opened up their second set with "Etude #1" which
was one of several fine songs in a strong second set. "Pressure Cooker"
was next followed by the often covered Band Of Gypsy's tune "Them Changes"
with the bouncer, Pauly Ethnic, on aptly powerful vocals. At one point
during the set the band didn't know what to play so they asked the crowd,
and they were met with several shouts for "Sacajahweeda", which followed.
My favorite of Sammy's songs, it features some inspired collective improvisation
(not just individual soloing over changes) and segued nicely into "In the Lab". A "Windjammer" set-closer
left everyone satisfied, but bassist Brian O'Connell reemerged to play the
George Harrison tune "Here comes the Sun" by himself on Chapman Stick. This
was both moving and impressive.

It seems like more and more people are picking up on Uncle Sammy and the crowds and venues are steadily
growing. They are currently on tour and next play in the NY/NJ area on New
Years with ulu in Teaneck, NJ. With the east coast NYE music choices
looking a little thin compared to the west coast, I know many people who
are strongly considering this one.

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