rare and special treat was handed out to fans of Steve Kimock this Halloween
at the legendary Chester's Place in Fayetteville,
Arkansas. Kimock, with a little time between his stint with Bruce
Hornsby in September and October, and the resumption of his regular touring
ensemble, The Steve Kimock Band, cobbled
together an interesting assortment of old and new friends for a unique two night
stand. Old comrades, Martin Fierro on sax and vocals (Zero, Steve Kimock
& Friends and Legion of Mary) and Banana on vocal, various guitars
and mandolin and keyboards (Zero, Steve Kimock & Friends, Youngbloods), Steve
Pryor on guitar, a Tulsa based musician, and new friends, Reed Mathis
on bass and Jason Smart on drums (Jacob
Fred Jazz Odyssey) gave those in attendance quite a stunning pair of performances.
The first night was a sublime evening of acoustic music, the second was a wild
and fun night of jamming replete with some old Zero
chestnuts and some well chosen covers. I can't think of another example of being
able to see basically the same grouping of musicians two nights in a row, in the
same venue, yet the performances being so utterly different yet both being brilliant.
A rare occurance indeed.
one was a sit down, mellow, quiet, non-smoking affair at the club. Two rows
of chairs and several rows of tables were set up where the dance floor usually
reigns supreme. For many longtime fans of Kimock, this was like a dream come
true; an entire evening of intimate yet intense playing by the musicians, and
intent and concentrated listening by the audience. There were times that night
that Chester's Place was so quiet, that the ring of the cash register was the
only audible sound other then music. The first set opened up with a number of
folk tunes with Kimock on Baratone Ukelele and Banana on various old acoustic
guitars and mandolin while providing the vocals. Songs like "Cuckoo,"
"Let the Harvest Go to Seed," "Hag and Churn" (a pipe reel),
and "Darlin Cora Is Gone" gave the evening a precious feel. Later
in the set, Kimock switched to acoustic guitar and they brought Fierro, Mathis
and Smart up on stage to join them in some blusey and more upbeat numbers, the
most satisfying of which was probably the blues standard, "Ridin' With
The King", a song that was long a part of the Zero repertoire. Things seemed
a little tight at first, with the musicians feeling each other out and getting
used to the more subdued setting, but by the end of the set things became much
more relaxed. Which set the stage for a wonderful, loose and relaxed second
second set of the acoustic show started off with Kimock and Banana playing two
melodic and mellifluous duets using some interesting acoustic guitars including
Kimock playing slide on a Regal Hawaiian Lap Guitar. Then they brought up the
rest of the musicians for what was perhaps the highlight of the evening, a stunningly
beautiful rendition of the Kimock classic, "It's Up To You." This
song is one of the most brilliantly conceived and popular instrumentals that
Kimock has written and has been a staple in every configuration that he has
played in over the years (including his stint with Phil
& Friends back in 1999). This version was quite unique due to the makeup
of the band and by the mere fact of it's being playing in this acoustic format.
It included fine solos by Fierro, Banana, and of course Kimock himself, as well
as some rather unique variations within the main themes of the song. They followed
this with a lovely rendition of the David Grisman
song "Dawgs Waltz." The show closed out with a few more folk and blues
songs including an emotional performance of "Brother John Is Gone."
Set to the tune of "Iko Iko," it was a tribute to the late John Cippolina,
an early mentor to Kimock and co-founder of Quicksilver Messenger Service and
Zero. Kimock could clearly be heard singing from stage. It was a priceless moment.
The crowd went wild and insisted on an encore and was given a heart-wrenching
version of "Hold to God's Unchanging Hand." It was truly a special
night for all music fans and of course an especially welcome experience for
those of us who have been following the career of Steve Kimock for many years.
Just before the electric show the following night, Banana shared with me that,
"I've been trying to get Steve to play with me in this format for 15 years!"
We're all glad that Banana finally convinced him to do it.
night, billed as "Chesterween, an evening with the Steve Kimock Electric
Band" was a totally different animal, but every bit as satisfying for
everyone in attendence. Chester's Place was decked out in Halloween garb, as
was much of the audience. Costumed patrons were greeted at the door by an orange
cloth curtain in the shape of a carved pumpkin. We came trick or treating, but
it was all treats that night. The band took the stage at around 10PM and played
two long sets approximately two hours each. The musicians and the crowd were
up for some good old jammin' fun. Very fine playing by everyone, including Steve
Pryor. Martin Fierro was in fine form throughout both nights. What a pleasure
it was for so many longtime Zero fans to hear Martin playing so well and wisecracking
in between songs. "Chut Up!" was heard ringing through the night,
a welcome, joyous, and nostalgic sound for many of us.
first set opened with the Fierro penned instrumental "Anorexia," a
staple of both Zero and the old Steve Kimock and Friends. A lively and funky
way to open the show. They followed with three more old Zero tunes, including
a terrific "Cole's Law" and one of my favorites from that era, "Sun
Sun Sun," which featured a tremendous slow building peak by Kimock, a signature
of his soloing style. The band did a credible job with Jimmy Cliff's "The
Harder They Come," then back to two monster instrumental tunes often played
by Kimock in earlier bands, "Baby Baby" and the Wayne Shorter jazz
classic, "Footprints." Both sported some very exciting playing by
all, giving new life to these old warhorses. The set ended with a rousing version
of the rave up blues-rock standard, "Mercury Blues." Sure, there were
some miscues here and there, that is to be expected with an impromptu grouping
like this. But the great improvisations and the crackling energy more then made
up for them. Reed Mathis is an extremely talented bass player and his band mate
Jason Smart held the music together admirably on drums. They seemed to be walking
on cloud nine playing with these venerable musicians. And the old pros were
loving it. There was a palpable chemistry between Mathis and Kimock. The band,
especially Mathis, was just beaming with smiles throughout the performance.
the break, the band came back with one last set full of great playing. There
were some surprises, like the Mark Knopfler ballad, "So Far Away From Me,"
sung by Steve Pryor. The group had a little trouble finding their footing on
this one, but Kimock rose to the occasion towards the end of the song, with
one of the most poingent, up-lifting and emotional solos I have ever heard him
play. It brought tears to many an eye in the house. The band in electric format
decided to do one more rendition of "It's Up To You" featuring intense
solos by Fierro and Kimock. This, as it was the night before, was one of the
high points of the evening as this song often is. We were then treated to a
Zero tune which had been kept on ice for a long time, "Golden Road,"
a rollicking jam filled extravaganza. The set ended with the late era Grateful
Dead ballad "Like A Road" sung lovingly by Banana. But the crowd wanted
more, and even though Kimock's cursed little "gig clock" said it was
time to stop, he was given the green light for one more number. After a little
back and forth on stage, they decided to play the Hendrix anthem "Little
Wing." Steve Kimock is well known for his soaring renditions of this song
and this night will go down as one of the great versions from this guitar master.
It must be heard to be believed. Steve busted the high E string as the song
reached it's final climax. An appropriate ending to the night.
The band gave it all they had. It was two absolutely stunning nights of music
in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a seemingly unlikely place, except for those in the
know about that hip little town. Hopefully this last minute grouping of old
and new friends of Steve Kimock will assemble again some time for more music
making. Clearly, everyone on stage and in the club had a fantastic time during
this short two-night run. While this grouping of players was not polished or
ultra "tight," it was the best sort of improvisational experience.
We were all "in the moment," a lofty goal, but often a difficult one
to achieve. All in attendence left hoping for a repeat performance some day.
In between songs, late in the second set of the electric show, Martin Fierro
smiled at the crowd and told us, "I hope you people realize how much you
are being loved here tonight."
Indeed, Martin, we were, and we did.
Words: Andy Dorfmann
Photos: Jennifer Brunner Kimock
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