The Dead Kenny Gs | 10.05 | LA

Words by: Aaron Lafont

The Dead Kenny Gs :: 10.05.07 :: Chelsea's Café :: Baton Rouge, LA

With virtually every genre polluted with bland, tasteless trash – and arguably none is more sullied than jazz (think Kenny G's late '90s cover of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World") - The Dead Kenny Gs have sought to dissolve the materialistic cloud that looms over much of the music industry. Combining jazz, rock, punk, funk and world music, they create an altogether unique groove similar in purpose to what Miles Davis did with the groundbreaking album, On the Corner. And live, the DKGs connect with anyone hip enough to look for a way out of the fog.

The latest incarnation of this avant-garde jazz trio featured founders Skerik (tenor sax, keys) and Mike Dillon (percussion) and this time around their Critters Buggin mate Brad Houser (bass, bari sax). All three laid waste to Mr. Gorelick's softheaded harmonic inclinations over the course of two sets at Chelsea's Café. And despite accounting for three-fourths of Critters Buggin, the DKGs instantly dismissed all notions of this being a side project as they dove deep into the fold, fusing the sounds of their influences with their own innovative dispositions.

En route to unearthing the rhythms of the past and enlivening them with improvisations fit for the future, they paid homage to the aforementioned fusion forbearer, resurrecting Miles Davis' multilayered, pulse driven "Black Satin." Many of the group's forays this night arose from Dillon's masterly, adroit, syncopated beats. Saxman Skerik propelled their tonal journey, charting its path with his Rhodes electric piano and setting its trajectory with his raucous tenor sax. However, steering the course was Houser, whose undulating bass licks fortified the ensemble's core and heralded their progression through trepid valleys and turbulent peaks.

Skerik & Dillon by Sean Henry
Building upon tight, funky riffs, the DKGs utilized dynamic repetition to expand upon and contrast with their densely entrenched foundations. They struck into passages from practically every genre, exploring the modes of each until one gave rise to the next. Whether they were tinkering with the timing of traditional jazz runs, bearing down onto loose calypso jams or blowing the lid off Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath covers, they never meandered or became lost in abstract noise. Though many cuts ventured far beyond most contemporary music, the DKGs kept the audience shaking, juxtaposing the bizarre and surreal with the concrete and palpable.

Dillon's psychedelic vibes jived with Skerik's beatboxing loops to generate an ambient hip-hop hybrid. Houser's fluid bass scales met Skerik's wah-steeped flurries to evoke the soul of mid '60s West Coast cool. Skerik's eerie keyboard lines echoed into the swells of Houser's creeping bass and meshed with Dillon's tablas and congas to conjure up a trance-fueled melee. Yet, perhaps nothing better embodied the message of the Dead Kenny Gs at Chelsea's than the moments when the wild improvisations of all three converged upon a cavernous hook and proceeded to blast it into sonic orbit.

The overt target of the DKGs mayhem may be to terminate the sounds of "smooth jazz" with extreme prejudice, but, overall, their undying mission is to dismantle the commercially derived, culturally perverse associations that bind jazz to the likes of Kenny G and his ilk. Anyone who signs on for their incursions will discover the true nature of jazz lies not within any predefined limits or stylistic clichés but extends from within the spirits of those who play it to resound within the spirits of those who experience it. You dig?

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[Published on: 11/28/07]

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happydestiny Wed 11/28/2007 01:17PM
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sounds tasty

nuke_ticketbastard starstarstarstar Wed 11/28/2007 01:46PM
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wow it DOES sound tasty , gotta get me some dat! bring it east!

Gribblecake Wed 11/28/2007 02:27PM
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was there a taper?

gmoo Wed 11/28/2007 02:41PM
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Awesome article. Mike D and Skerik are two of the best. I was bitchin 'bout no Skerik articles recently and here it is. This is why I keep comin' back to the 'base.

mrkrinkle6884 starstarstarstar Wed 11/28/2007 04:29PM
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Not much newsworthy news I think on Jambase last couple days... or is it just me?? But this is defenitely a worthy advesary. Been almost two years since I saw these guys with the Fancy Band, Ive been out of the loop too too long.

moejoerisin Wed 11/28/2007 05:22PM
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i dig! superbly written article aaron - kudos. and yes, skerik is the fuckin man.

soundchaser starstarstarstar Wed 11/28/2007 06:48PM
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Nice article about a very unique band. I saw these guys in Bloomington, IN. The music was immense and dense. Only about 10 people in the crowd, so got a chance to meet these guys. Good guys for sure. Hopefully they come around again. There was a taper, but I haven't seen it surface anywhere.

An absolutely hilarious sequence of events near the end of the show when two very drunk, not so pretty girls came into the club and started to try to dance, not having a clue about who the band was. It really wasn't dance music at the time. The girls started to complain. Skerik and Mike started completely messing with these girls, to the uncontrollable laughter of the whole crowd. One girl got on stage to sing a song that Mike suggested lyrics for that were not G rated. She sang it all like a trooper and then gave some of it back to the band. The other girl came up to sing some country cheese and Skerik completely added demon sound effects, and she just kept on going like nothing was wrong. It was the funniest thing I've seen on stage in my 1000 concert career.

AUSTINITSUA Wed 11/28/2007 08:32PM
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These fellas are one of the best things about living in Seattle.

Frisell also.

Skerik sits in with nearly every great musician who comes through here.

No we don't just produce the clear channel radio bands. "Fashion bands" I call them.

PopcornAquarium starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/29/2007 08:03AM
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good to see the DKGs gettin' some love and it's VERY good to see they're touring again. I wish they has Brian Haas on this tour, that guy is a fuckin LIZARD on stage.. unreal energy

saw the DKGs in fayettenam in jan '05 and during the brief setbreak skerik and mike d were playing as they walked off stage. someone was wheelin' mike d's vibes out into the large area at George's where they were storing equipment and where people were smoking and whatnot and he just continued to beat the living SHIT out of the vibes. guy is 110% awesome, fo reals

i'd kill to see any lineup of the DKGs roll through Missouri

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 11/29/2007 09:29AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

what a funny band name :)

Jukebox Hero Thu 11/29/2007 08:54PM
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Jukebox Hero

Anyone who is onto this band or just thinks Kenny G is a shitbag should go to the DKG's website. Their name is inspired by this diatribe that Pat Metheny (I'm pretty sure) went into during an interview. He starts off talking about Kenny G's album where he overlaid his playing onto old Satchmo recordings and then goes into a serious critique of "smooth jazz" in general. It's some pretty entertaining stuff and Metheny obviously feels really strongly about the subject.

Ned8 starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/30/2007 06:54AM
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Fantastic group, when this group played Norfolk,VA they blew it up. Love it!!!!!

Smittea starstarstarstarstar Fri 11/30/2007 11:48AM
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I would wager Skerik came up with the name.

DirtyRice starstarstarstar Mon 12/3/2007 04:52PM
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I believe Mike Dillon came up with the name in regards to the Dead Kennedy's. That and the Pat Metheny comment. I did hear that Kenny G holds the record for the time length of a single note played on the sax. He could probably rock a dijg pretty good. He recycles, yknow.

PrinceofDANKNESS Tue 12/4/2007 08:54PM
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I would venture to say that kenny G is a fantastic musician - just the type of music he plays sucks kinda like opera and the such!

Smittea starstarstarstarstar Thu 12/6/2007 10:32AM
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Thanks for the clarification DirtyRice. I know there are many that will say, "Look at the Gster's record sales.... he has to be good." I have never used popular as a litmus test for good. Hitler at one point was VERY popular - not trying to associate the two (although someone else can feel free :), but using the comparison more as an analogy.

...and Prince O Dark could be right, he might be amazing if it weren't for the music. The sad part we will probably never know. When many people find that formula that works and equates to mega bucks, it is easy to sell out if not sell one's musical soul for what one feels is global success and acknowledgement of talent.