By Josh Potter
Sam Kininger Band :: 02.08.07 :: The Stone Church :: Newmarket, NH
It's a crying shame that alto sax powerhouse Sam Kininger has to include the tag "formerly of Soulive" on his show posters to draw a crowd. Maybe it's a curse peculiar to the funky alto-man. Maceo Parker really only got his share of the limelight when James Brown (God rest his soul) told him to blow. And, like Maceo, Sammy K's got chops to spare. It's lucky for Kininger (and us, really) that backwoods hotspots like The Stone Church are still around, because, otherwise, who else is gonna give 'em some?
Finding the Stone Church can be a trick. Through a sleepy town, up a steep hill, past residential driveways lined with minivans and lingering Christmas decor, and into the dirt parking lot of a quaint New England church. If it were not for the sole dready jewelry vendor out braving the cold, one might mistake the event for a parish pancake supper. Needless to say, the night was not still young when Kininger and Co. finally found the place and hastily set up shop. But, in classic roadhouse fashion, with nary a soundcheck, the band got right down to it.
Soulive and JB comparisons aside, Kininger's brand of soul-jazz is nothing new. A cringe-worthy "Chameleon" in the first set bore testament to this fact. Even before the first note dropped, it was clear that things are a little different in this band. Besides Kininger, there's Aaron Bellamy (bass), Amy Bowles (organ) and Nicki Glaspie (drums). By the time the first groove was established, another thing became apparent - this is more than the Sammy K Show. A lone alto saxophone is hardly a horn section, but Kininger's modus operandi is not (as the vocal chant during the second set opener suggested) to tear this mother down. Although his solos continually surpassed those of his band mates in complexity and cohesion, it was his supportive stabs - a kind of hype-horn - that best highlighted the real attraction, which is his band.
Sam Kininger Band
Having cycled through various incarnations of the Sam Kininger Band (and sided periodically with Soulive, Lettuce, and the Brotherhood of Groove) Kininger may well have stumbled upon a formula that works. Glaspie, the young Brooklyn drummer, carried the night. Her rhythmic discombobulation of Soulive's already-off-kilter "One in Seven" was the show's highpoint. Her mellifluous vocal work pervaded the evening, often spontaneously echoing Kininger's horn and Bowles's clavinet. If anyone was tearing that mother down it was this funky drummer. By the time the band wrapped up in the wee hours this much had become clear: Kininger's days of collaboration and sideman-ship are over. This time he's got something he can really call his own.
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