All the hype and anticipation were realized when TJ Kirk took the stage for two reunion shows December 26 and 27 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. If Friday's show was the "rehearsal" and warm-up, Saturday's show was the prize.
The band was in great spirits, as was the sold out audience in the Music Hall, one of the musical treasures in San Francisco. Some great music has been made there over the years--the legendary Grateful Dead "Blues for Allah" show (released as One from the Vault) in 1975 to more recent Radiators shows and KVHW runs in the late 90s.
Looking relaxed and really happy to be playing together again, TJ Kirk launched into the first set of many classic songs. The band plays jazz fusion covers of James Brown, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and Thelonius Monk tunes with superb musicianship and fervor. Will Bernard handled most of the lead guitar parts, with John Schott contributing interesting leads and comic relief too. Scott Amendola's jazz drumming style was perfectly understated and Charlie Hunter's innovative 8-string guitar/bass filled out their sound.
Highlights for this listener were too many to mention but some standouts were Brown's "Get On the Good Foot" and "Cold Sweat" in the second set, Charlie Hunter singing during the first set, all guitar players playing Jimi-style behind their heads, and a heavy metal interlude which featured guitar licks from "Aqualung," "Barracuda," and "Iron Man," until Schott's intro to "Stairway to Heaven" was cut off in a humorous way by Bernard. A fun version of the classic folk ballad "Long Black Veil" by Schott was interjected into the "Teo/Bemsha Swing" sandwich in the second set, with Hunter and Bernard joining Amendola with percussive accents.
Will Bernard continues to amaze with his versatility and range on traditional six string, slide, and lap steel guitars. John Schott is the least well-known player in this band and added lots of lead, rhythm, and fills, even clinking out notes on the glockenspiel in a few tunes. Charlie Hunter is an amazing player in any setting, but his unique 8 string bass/guitar and accompanying pedal effect keyboard sounds are perfect for this ensemble. Scott Amendola is also a jazz-class drummer with a remarkably soft touch.
These taped shows should be sought out by collectors or fans of any of the individual musicians but especially by those who appreciate a tight fusion quartet that can really swing. TJ Kirk's new live CD Talking Only Makes It Worse, recorded in 1997, is available from tjkirk.com, charliehunter.com, or Ropeadope Records.
Three of the band members--Amendola, Bernard and Schott--still live in the Bay Area, with Hunter now living in NYC but playing SF a few times a year with his own jazz group. We can only hope more reunion shows are forthcoming.
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