Scott Amendola / Scott Amendola Band


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Drummer Scott Amendola maintains his high standards on his third recording as a leader (and his second on the Cryptogramophone label). In short, this is another great release, filled with passion, drama, humor, and the sundry joys of superior collective improvisation. As always with Amendola, eclecticism is assumed, but he enriches the mix this time by including Jeff Parker from Tortoise, who provides a second electric guitar alongside Nels Cline, while Jenny Scheinman's violin completes the string trio front line. In addition to his drum/percussion duties, Amendola also triggers some interesting loops and samples and plays electric mbira and melodica. Scheinman's violin attack is more or less traditional (although her playing is marvelous, as usual), but Parker and Cline coax some rather distinctive sounds from their instruments, using a large bag of effects. Cline further displays his versatility by playing both six- and 12-string acoustic and electric guitars as well as a lap steel. In less sophisticated hands, the combination of two electric guitars and a violin might have resulted in an undifferentiated mush, but the collective sensitivity to timbre and texture displayed here allows the three instruments to operate almost as a horn section, or to improvise against each other's lines to excellent effect. High points are almost too numerous to mention on this very generous recording, whose nine songs clock in at just under 70 minutes. "Oladipo," which is dedicated to the pioneering Afro-beat drummer Tony Allen, has a strong, infectious African groove. "Shady" is a nifty piece of Ornette Coleman-style harmolodics, begun with a free-form, arrhythmic dialogue between Parker and Cline before giving way to the boppish theme. Scheinman takes the only solo and it's a tribute both to the compositions and the level of playing that this piece, and a number of others on the CD, could easily have been extended without any loss of energy or interest. "If Only Once" is an outstanding ballad featuring Scheinman's lovely romantic violin, while a country-rock piece, "Buffalo Bird Woman," is in the style of Neil Young or perhaps Wilco, with whom Nels Cline has recently been associated. "Cesar Chavez" is a somber but powerful tribute to the departed leader of the United Farm Workers. And of course, no Amendola (or Nels Cline) recording would be complete without a bit of incendiary, gonzo guitar energy, which on this release is nicely supplied by "Resistance," which starts with bursts of ominous electronic noise from Cline and Amendola, after which the sober theme is turned every which way by the squalling feedback of Cline and Parker's guitars before fading into an uneasy oblivion. Both the musical scope and the uniformly high level of artistry on this recording are truly impressive. Highly recommended.

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