Steve Kimock Band, Culture Room, Ft Lauderdale, FL- 1/13
Last Friday's show at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale gave South Florida its first glimpse of Steve Kimock's revamped lineup and it surely did not disappoint. Out of fairness to previous bandmates Leo Traversa and Mitch Stein, though, it would be appropriate to say that this version of SKB got a little different rather than 'better' or 'worse' or 'new and improved'. Yes, this is an absolutely all star line-up with Robert Walter (Greyboy Allstars, Robert Walter's 20th Century Congress), Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) as well as SKB stalwart and Grammy award winning drummer, Rodney Holmes. Whether it is a better band is up to the individual and their particular favorite form of Kimock's music.
Soon into the first set it was obvious that this was a different kind of SKB than had been seen in previous years. Robert Walters was providing an additional element on keyboards while Reed Mathis absolutely brings new life and energy to the bass lines. During the opener, "Bronx Experiment" Walters started laying down the funk right up front and seemed to be working in synch with Kimock while Mathis and Holmes were in lockstep rhythm. By the time the set had rolled through to "Weapons of Moose Destruction" and "5B4 Funk" a pattern was starting to emerge: not only was an emphasis being placed on "da funk" but Kimock was yielding considerable space to his new bandmates, especially Walter. Where in the past Kimock dominated the stage with his searing runs and psychedelic tear drop shots darting in and out of space, he was now dropping back and letting others fill this space for him. By the time a jazzy "Elmer's Revenge," which had really served as a platform for a Rodney Holmes drum clinic while Kimock bemusedly strummed away, finished up, it was clear that the stage was to be filled by "the band"" rather than "the man."
For those concerned that all this funked out SKB jazz compromised the usual dose of psychedelia that accompanied recent years' shows had only to listen to the second set opener "Incantation." Kimock delivered some nice spacey licks while Rodney Holmes interspersed light playing as a form of background harmony with some ridiculous drum rolls and fills. The two combined to satisfy most any 21st century person's taste for the psychedelic.
Perhaps the most pronounced difference in sound was evident as the band moved into "Why Can't We All Just Samba?" Last year Kimock devoted almost 30 minutes to "Samba" — 10 minutes just teasing it up on the lap pedal steel (which Reed Mathis was overheard discussing at side stage belonged to some Oklahoma cowboy-jazzman from the 1930's) before allowing the song to take flight. This year he launched into the body of the song after some very short musings. Holmes tribal sounding drum beats brought a whole new feel while Walters threw in some spacey B3 Hammond/Fender Rhodes combinations. It could be said that this band's rendition of "Samba" was less intense than some previous versions, but was, in fact, more vivid.
The second set was really an affirmation of the trends established in the first set: funky renditions of Kimock classics and newer numbers like "Nana's Chalk Pipe" wherein Reed Mathis and Robert Walter were leading the jams forward while Kimock hung back and nodded and grinned his approval before launching into his own measured contributions. "Thing One" followed "Nana" and was a perfect example of how well this new synergy was working. Here was a song that was truly enhanced by the chemistry that was forming between Kimock and Walter as the night wore on. This was a song whose rhythm was given a significant boost from the B3 Hammond organ. The net effect, however, was that it provided a strong underpinning for the sweetest Kimock picking of the night while Mathis, Holmes and Walters held it all down. It finished with Kimock yielding the final lead space to Walter who filled it up with some smoldering, swampy, Allman-esque B3 sounds that made this "Thing One" sound truly special.
The night finished up, suitably, with Kimock reminding anyone who forgot, exactly whose band this was. "Electric Wildlife" had him way out in front picking away like mad, delivering what he otherwise seems content to hold in check with this new ensemble (which seemed to magnify it all the more).
The Steve Kimock Band, circa 2006, is a really tight knit group of superbly talented musicians who are sharing not just a stage but a man's music. What seems most different about this version of SKB is the confidence and willingness that Kimock seems to express in doing so. He seems to have found a level of chemistry among these musicians that allows his music to become greater as a whole than the sum of its individual parts. This is indeed a different SKB. New and improved? It’s still a matter of taste.