The Scott Amendola Band
Wednesday, November 11th and Thursday, November 12th, 8 p.m.| Arcata Playhouse
"A drummer equally committed to invention and groove."
—Nate Chinen, New York Times
For Scott Amendola, the drum kit isn’t so much an instrument as a musical portal. An ambitious composer, a savvy bandleader, and a creative foil for some of the world’s most inventive musicians, Amendola exercises his rhythmic virtuosity in a vast array of settings—from jazz, blues, pop, rock, and country to experimental, avant-garde and New Music. He is, as Andrew Gilbert put it in Jazz Times, a “vital creative presence on the West Coast, bridging improvised-music scenes from Los Angeles and Seattle to Chicago, New York, and beyond.”
Born and raised in the New Jersey suburb of Tenafly, Amendola showed an aptitude for rhythm almost from the moment he could walk. His grandfather, Tony Gottuso, was a guitarist who performed with such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Nat “King” Cole. A member of the original Tonight Show Band under Steve Allen, he offered plenty of support when his grandson showed an interest in jazz.
Amendola’s passion only deepened during his four years at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where it wasn’t unusual for him to practice twelve hours a day. Drawing inspiration from fellow students such as Jim Black, Danilo Perez and Mark Turner, Amendola decided he had to find his own voice rather than model himself after established drummers.
After graduating in 1992, he moved to San Francisco, where he quickly hooked up with Charlie Hunter. “Ever since I played with my grandfather I’ve just really loved the guitar and I wanted to meet a young guitar player who was doing something different,” Amendola says. “And you can’t get more different than what Charlie’s doing.” The pair went on to play together in the avant-funk ‘n’ jazz combo T.J. Kirk, and their musical friendship is one of the strongest threads running through Amendola’s career. After rekindling their chemistry in Ben Goldberg’s earthy quartet “Go Home” (part of the 2009-10 RJA season), the two stripped their music down to its essentials in a tough and sinewy duo that has toured and recorded extensively over the past five years. (They played Center Arts two seasons ago.)
But Amendola has been up to other things since we saw him last, too. Perhaps no project better displays his big ears and musical ambitions than “Fade To Orange,” a work commissioned as part of the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s Irvine Foundation-funded New Visions/New Vistas initiative. The roiling suite premiered to critical acclaim at Oakland’s Paramount Theater in April 2011, and earlier this year Amendola documented it on a crowd-funded CD recorded at Berkeley’s storied Fantasy Studios with his original collaborators—the explosive instrumental trio the Nels Cline Singers (with Wilco guitarist Cline and powerhouse bassist Trevor Dunn)—and the great Magik*Magik Orchestra.
Indeed, it’s not only Charlie Hunter’s guitar that threads through Amendola’s career: while he has forged long and fruitful relationships with Hammond B-3 organist Wil Blades, ROVA saxophonist Larry Ochs, and clarinetist Ben Goldberg—players who, like him, have cut singular paths within and beyond the realm of jazz—Amendola has served as sideman for Bill Frisell, Pat Martino, Jim Campilongo, and John Scofield, and his closest musical associates also include axe men Henry Kaiser, Jeff Parker…and Nels Cline.
When schedules allow, Amendola continues to tour and record with Cline’s “Singers” (who made a memorable appearance here at the Playhouse with Yuka Honda five years ago)—and Cline has returned the favor by rejoining the Scott Amendola Band, founded in the late 1990s with Jenny Scheinman as one of its original members. “The first time I heard Scott I was really blown away,” Cline says. “There aren’t too many drummers on the West Coast who have his wide ranging ability. Scott’s got some funk in him, a looser, sexy thing going on, and the flexibility to play free and different styles. [But] he rocks too.” Cline joined the SAB for its second album, Cry, in 2003, and he was a crucial presence on 2005’s Believe, which established the band’s current string-centric lineup. Like its leader, this quintet is equally at home in the pocket and on the edge: Amendola wanted it to play “music that is really free but also about songs.” The contrasting styles of Cline and Jeff Parker can’t help stealing the spotlight, but Jenny Scheinman’s violin often carries the melody as well as adding color and crackle, while bassist John Shifflett, another Bay Area fixture, serves as anchor and foundation. The synergy among these close musical friends, all West Coasters now, is plenty potent to spark two nights’ worth of surprise and delight.
(Adapted from ScottAmendola.com)
Tickets ($15 General Admission, $10 Students & Seniors) are available here at our website and at People's Records, Wildwood Music, Wildberries, and The Works.
The Scott Amendola Band will also present an open public workshop on Thursday, November 12th at 12:00 noon in HSU's Fulkerson Recital Hall. People of all levels of experience are welcome to attend, and admission is FREE.
N.B.: The Scott Amendola Band will also perform at the Playhouse on Thursday, November 12th in a show presented by the Playhouse. Redwood Jazz Alliance Season Tickets will be honored on Wednesday, November 11th only.
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