TJ Kirk, Scott Amendola drums, Will Bernard guitar, Charlie Hunter 8 string guitar/bass, and John Schott guitar, was a brightly burning star in the jazz-fusion world in San Francisco from 1993-1997, but much to their fans' disappointment, they disbanded after a short four years and after releasing two highly acclaimed albums. All of the members have gone on to other projects, (Hunter with the Charlie Hunter Trio/Quartet/Quintet and Garage a Trois; Amendola with Crater; Bernard with Motherbug; Schott with Ensemble Diglossia and John Schott's Typical Orchestra) but as luck would have it, they all decided to reunite this month in San Francisco for a two night run at the Great American Music Hall. This reunion came about partly because of the pending release of a live TJ Kirk show recorded in late 1997, which will be available soon through ropeadope records. In a recent chat with guitarist Will Bernard, he told me the band considers that captured show as one of their finest.
The band took it's name from three legendary musicians: Thelonious Monk, James Brown, and Rassan Roland Kirk, (originally wanting to call themselves James T. Kirk but were prevented to do so by Gene Roddenberry's estate) and their first self titled album released in 1994 exclusively covered the material of these three composers. An interesting cover band concept played with funky precision by the unique playing of Charlie Hunter on custom built 8 string, which enables him to play both guitar and bass lines at the same time, accompanied by the more traditional six string guitars of Will Bernard and John Schott, backed by the solid drumming of Scott Amendola.
This was followed in 1996 with the sophomore effort, If Four Was One (Warner), which was nominated for a Grammy the following year. In 1998 when Charlie Hunter moved to NYC to pursue other musical projects, TJ Kirk was officially done. All that remained to showcase this powerful band were the live show recordings that circulate among the tape trading community (the band allows taping of their performances).
The decision to reunite for the upcoming San Francisco shows was one of both convenience (Hunter was in town for a run of shows at the Oakland jazz spot, Yoshi's, and the other local members were all available) plus the excitement of releasing the new CD, made the band think about doing a few gigs. They are hoping the buzz about the new release and the SF shows will lead to a possible appearance at the New Orleans Jazz Fest next year.
TJ Kirk has not played together since 1997, but plans are underway for extensive rehearsals for the Great American Music Hall shows and they hope to break out some new material too. There are also possibilities they will play more shows following the success of the reunion. We can only hope! Catch these soon to be legendary shows on December 26 and 27 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
Susan J. Weiand
JamBase | San Francisco
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