Steve Kimock Band, B.B. King’s, NYC- 6/11
Hot. Days of humidity and abusive sun pooling in the city canyons and leaking down the circular staircase to the main room at B.B. King's, where the Steve Kimock Band took the stage for a night of wonderful musical explorations and relative rarities. The opening "Eudemon" fell on eager ears, although throughout the night chattiness increased. Steve played scorching leads right out of the gate, as he moved to a slide and carried the music into a small, quiet place. With "Dr. Zaius" the group firmly established the tone for the evening: weighty, if not quite heavy, and foggy. As the band chopped into the first bridge, with its Trane-like steps, Steve popped a string. Mid-song, drummer Rodney Holmes roared up with a rapid fire drum solo finished by a wicked snatch from guitarist Mitch Stein matched by Steve. While not groundbreaking, this was not the average version.
By the first notes of "Baby, Baby," not a common sight on set lists, it was clear the band was on. Twice Steve's racing leads brought the music low, only to slowly cultivate another speedy solo. In the second open area, bassist Leo Traversa built a sleek new groove on which Mitch unleashed a crazed barrage of stacked ideas, and at the very last moment, Steve reappeared to spin in his cohort's vapor trail.
If not for the following exceedingly rare version of "Green," "Baby, Baby" would have been the highlight of the set. As it was, the core was a fine suite of the pair, with the second segueing into "Bronx Experiment." At the outset, "Green," a vaguely Irish piece, was bigger, almost an anthem. It was quickly coated in beauteous cascades of notes. The night sky opened and sent minds wandering. At some point the composition reestablished itself, and just as quickly, with a roll from Rodney and a staggered line from Steve, we were back into the deep, protean space- a voyage of only a few seconds, and worth the night.
Swollen drums introduced an awe-some, darkly mystical "Bronx Experiment." Leo was playing a set of widely spaced, deep-bottomed notes that seemed to work on a whole other level as the guitars whirled and whipped. It was breathtaking but sinister- breath thieving- and the longest journey of the night.
The set was capped with another in a long line of devastating New York "Tongue and Grooves" that traces back years now. As a fine complement, the second set opened with "Ice Cream," which was composed in the Big Apple. As was so often the case throughout the show, Steve brought the music down to a quiet, but decidedly indelicate space. The whole rhythm section held steady, but Steve was toying in the outer regions, pushing the music to wild heights. "Many Rivers" followed, played beautifully on his cream-colored Strat until Steve popped another string- the ensuing switch to steel was a bit too pronounced and uncomfortable.
Another drum solo, this one vicious, evil, led to yet another rarity, "Moon People." It was somehow comforting to hear again, despite its bombastic tendencies and power chords- Mitch's assault on the lunar landscape has long been one of my favorite solos. The central freak out, however, was refocused around Rodney- less crazy and more an exercise in alien logic.
The fourth treat of the night featured Rodney and Mitch adding vocals, and doing a nice job of it too, to a cover of "Message in a Bottle." While the show closed with a respectable "Samba," at twenty-one minutes, the song seemed very breezy, like the afterglow of such a night of music. Instead, the preceding "5 B4 Funk" capped off the innovation- it was neither long nor particularly psychedelic, but shaded red with a very cool, raw final improv where the band worked out a theme based on the second half of the bridge- very nicely done.
The final treat of the night, the one that sent a satisfied crowd into the bustling, bright as day Times Square midnight, was an "Avalon" encore. "No requests, no encores" has often been SKB's motto, but with the recent all-request, no repeats run, why not an encore? Why not that especially uplifting ride to end the show?