Live In Colorado, the second release from the Steve Kimock Band, is both miles from the first (Live From The West Coast) and an ideal companion as well. "West Coast" showcased a band in flux with a rotating cast of players: SKB had been on the road for a year, seeking to find a voice as well as improvising up a storm. What was a quiet storm on the first disc has become a raging thunder-head tearing across the nation.
The current line-up - captured here in February, 2002 - consists of a seasoned cast of players. On bass is Alphonso Johnson, known for his work with Weather Report, The Other Ones, Jazz Is Dead and countless other groups. Behind the drums is powerhouse Rodney Holmes. Rodney has most recently worked with Carlos Santana (garnering one of his Grammys for his work on the Supernatural album) and has worked with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul and (jazz guitarist) David Gilmore. Thirdly, Mitch Stein mans the second guitar slot, adding rhythm and lead to the potent stew. Mitch has previous played with a wide variety of artists including Jack McDuff and George Benson.
Steve Kimock may or may not need introduction. Since heading to California from his native Pennsylvania while playing for the folk-rock group The Goodman Brothers, Steve has played with Keith and Donna Godchaux in The Ghosts; founded Zero with Greg Anton (which featured, among many others: Martin Fierro, John Cippolina and Pete Sears); jumped into the hot seat for The Other Ones and Phil & Friends; and co-founded the much respected and often missed KVHW. With SKB, Steve is striving to find new avenues of exploration and judging from this release; his search is bearing fruit.
From the first elegantly placed notes, one can hear that "Tongue N Groove" is going to attempt to stand atop its own emotional plateau. After the first run at the theme, Kimock is joined by the rest of the band, quietly, gently supporting Steve's crystal clear tone. When the bridge hits, a burst of lightning on a calm sea, one of this band's strengths becomes evident: dynamics. Turning from gentle balladry to passionate tidal waves on a dime isn't child's play, and this collection of veteran players shows that they are in top form.
In this number, Steve also shows his skills in shaping melodies on the steel guitar. Cool and rounded smooth like mercury, this solo begins honey-sweet and grows, developing an edge-of-your-seat (if you can stay seated) intensity. Rodney matches and pushes the swell as Alphonso and Mitch lay out course over which they, as a band, traverse.
"Ice Cream" follows with its quick shuffle and high-stepping leads. Alphonso's bass riffs cut through like a hot knife during the shuffle, and together the band climbs the ascending bridge in anthemic fashion. This all sounds quite pretty, but is merely a springboard for a hot, up-tempo jam, a deep spacey meltdown, and a reprise, all of which showcase the entire band quite well.
"Tangled Hangers" is a tune which Steve has been crafting since the early 80s. Yes, I said the 80s. The distance between the performances of say, 1984 and the centerpiece of this CD is light-years. Appropriately, this version starts with a free-form introduction featuring spacey ambience from Mitch, rolling beats from Rodney and Alphonso, and assorted echoes from Steve ricocheting through the listener's head. The actual thematic beginning of the song is expertly executed with tight drum rolls from Rodney and Alphonso's funky bass. Steve deftly navigates the melody, gliding atop Mitch's textured bed of rhythm.
Quickly though, the song breaks down into a quiet platform from which they can begin their quest. In the past, Steve has expressed an interest in North Indian Ragas. While I'm certainly not well versed in this style, there are definitely elements which I can detect within this recording. The band works from a rhythmic base and plays through the choruses applying accelerandos and gradually shifting themes liberally until the tension is either released or temporarily diffused, only to be rebuilt.
A devilish Middle-Eastern jam, reminiscent of Miles Davis' "Solea", is the pivot point for the final quarter of the track. Here, Mitch Stein steps up for a solo that displays both his chops and the strength of his contrast to Kimock. Mitch's sound is harder and more rough-hewn than Steve's and here, he take us to dizzying heights at a blistering rate before releasing us to drift back to the original theme and the close of the song.
"Hillbillies" (whose name has been shortened from its more humorous moniker "Hillbillies On PCP") gets out in the yard like a heavy duty hoe-down. Up-tempo with a rockabilly beat, this tune features rapid fire solo work by Steve, who throws out his best Chet Atkins twang amidst some serious fretwork. Seemingly out-of-nowhere, a delicate, tropical sounding melody appears a la Ernest Ranglin, but before long, the heavy refrain kicks back in and we're back to the woods. "Hillbillies" soars, careening to heights unknown to man prior to exo-atmospheric flight. Kimock plumbs darker territory, knocking the shine off of his strings and digging into the grittier side of rock before closing the tune with yet another heavy reprise of the refrain.
The final track, "Ride Out", takes a winding road towards the close of the disc and it certainly is a pleasant trip. This jam roars in on the heels of a "You're The One" but quickly leaves Sly Stone in the dust in favor of deeper explorations. Alphonso snakes along deliciously, just below the radar, and Rodney lays out terrific, quiet rhythms. The guitars keep it all mellow and searching, Mitch supporting Steve expertly and, at times, the two blend perfectly. Steve finds a direction and starts toward it soon enough, but the track fades out as he's still in the midst of tearing the house down...
Recorded at two consecutive shows, Live In Colorado gives the listener a juicy taste of what this band can do, and should leave them looking for more. As the fade-out on the final track suggests, there is indeed more. Folks who attend this band's live performances are bound to get wrapped up in the quest for the many sides of ever-shifting, ever-growing beast that is the Steve Kimock Band.
JamBase | Virginia
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