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Published: 2004/11/06
by Dan Alford

Sam Kininger, Lucille’s at B.B. King’s, NYC- 10/29

Sam Kininger epitomizes the best and brightest of the jazz end of the jam scene. His music is glowing and warm, finely balanced between traditional solos and games of pass the peas, and innovative ensemble workouts. His compositions are engaging, often catchy and danceable, and his rotating line-up always offers some new angle of interpretation. On Friday night, just after the Dub Trio and The Wailers, and just before PBS in the main space at B.B. King's, Sam packed Lucille's Grill, the venue's showcase room, for a single, long set of Kininger compositions, and groove family collaborations. The core band featured frequent bassist Aaron Belamy, Amy Boehls on keys, and on drums. Amy was a particularly nice addition to the group, a younger cat who favored the Roland and was given ample to room to strut her mix of thick sustain and fast fingers. Not long into the set, however, she also made way for Ivan Neville, who would join PBS next door. He worked over the keys for a tune, riding heavy on the pedals, and grinning across the stage, before heading off for the next gig.

The rest of the show was likewise filled with guests. Frequent cohort Rashawn Ross made the most impressive showing, sitting in on any number of songs, and garnering huge cheers for his efforts. With trumpet and flugelhorn, he repeatedly dominated the musical field, offering lengthy solos of incredibly clean playing, and often working himself up to a series of remarkably tight, high notes- intensely concentrated points of sound.

Lettuce band mates Eric Krasno and Adam Deitch also joined the fun toward the middle of the set, the drummer remaining for the duration. Personal preferences aside, Deitch is easily one of the best young drummers playing today, and when he takes the stage, he elevates everyone else's playing. His work is simultaneously refined and rowdy, complex and organic. He is mesmerizing, completely thrilling, and when he's on stage I have trouble paying attention to anything else.

The apex of the show, a show full of high points, was the closing, super funky interpretation of Footprints. The intensity and focused abandon of the song, a sprawling, expansive landscape covered at a galloping pace, once again brought home just how good Sam is, both as a musician and as a band leader.

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