Scott Amendola: Unlimited Possibilities
Blades figures prominently in Amendola's plans for the near future. In March of this year, the two will premiere a duo interpretation of Duke Ellington's Far East Suite. Amendola will also return to the studio soon for a tribute to seminal pianist Andrew Hill. With these projects and a regular gig in a Thelonious Monk tribute band (alongside Devin Hoff and clarinetist Ben Goldberg), it might appear that Amendola has entered a phase of looking back to his musical roots. But he says there's more to it than that.
"In terms of Andrew Hill, that's Nels' project. It'll be the Nels Cline Singers, plus Ben Goldberg and Andrea Parkins and Bobby Bradford. Nels wants to pay tribute to Andrew Hill now, while he's still around, and give him some attention. Hill's had such a profound impact on so many of us. We're doing maybe ten or eleven of his tunes. That'll be on Cryptogramophone, but I'm not sure when it'll come out; hopefully this year."
And the Far East Suite? "I've always wanted to play that music. At first I wanted to arrange it for my band. But now I have this relationship with Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco, as sort of a resident composer/artist. So I'd been preparing compositions to play there, and then I thought I could give this music a different take. I feel like Wil and I can say something interesting with it. We'll bring it down to just organ and drums, and really strip it down and try to take apart the pieces, do something that hasn't been done. I want to try a whole new concept, and we'll see what we come up with."
He's also attracted to the suite's multifaceted nature. "There's a really heavy backbeat to some of the tunes that you can just groove on, and then there are some chamber-like pieces, and "Isfahan" is beautiful, almost like an English ballad. It's an amazing work."
Plays Monk, the trio with Hoff and Goldberg, is also about breaking things down. "Here's a situation where it's clarinet, bass and drums. There's no chord voice. It's taking Monk's music and putting it into a different configuration. The way we play that music, we shy away from the melodies oftentimes. Or rather, Ben is really free with the melodies. Some of it we play straight, but the fact that there's no chordal instrument really opens up the music for Devin and Ben. And we all just love the music."
He sums up all three projects eloquently. "I feel like I spend most of my life playing other people's music, and there are some people I just want to honor, like Ellington and Monk. Those people provide a lifetime of study. They're so interesting melodically and harmonically, and I have so much to learn from them. When I play their music, it's an education. Always."
The list of current projects only begins there. Amendola just wrapped up another record, this time backing up violinist John Ettinger and saxophonist Tony Malaby. He's preparing a solo piece for drums and electric mbira to be performed in March as part of the Under the Radar improv festival at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Meanwhile, he'll be in the studio yet again for Madeleine Peyroux's next CD and then touring with her in the spring. And as if that weren't enough, Amendola also holds down a side job as a booking agent, programming music for Bacar, an upscale restaurant in San Francisco. How does he do it? "Between all the music things, I'm working 18-hour days," he says. "I really miss reading."
He may miss digging into his history books, but somehow Scott Amendola hasn't missed a beat.
Scott Amendola Band, Believe (Cryptogramophone, 2005)
CRATER, Proceed (Cycling '74, 2005)
The Nels Cline Singers, The Giant Pin (Cryptogramophone, 2004)
Rova:Orkestrova, An Alligator in Your Wallet (Ewe, 2004)
Red Pocket, Thick (Tzadik, 2004)
Scott Amendola Band, Cry (Cryptogramophone, 2003)
T.J. Kirk, Talking Only Makes It Worse (Rope-a-Dope, 2003)
Kelly Joe Phelps, Slingshot Professionals (Ryko, 2003)
The Nels Cline Singers, Instrumentals (Cryptogramophone, 2002)
L. Stinkbug, The Allure of Roadside Curios (Starlight Furniture Co., 2002)
Noe Venable, Boots (Petridish, 1998)
Scott Amendola Band, Scott Amendola Band (Artofmyheart, 2000)
Jenny Scheinman Quartet, Live at Yoshi's (Avan, 2000)
Paul Plimley Trio, Safe-Crackers (Victo, 1999)
Charlie Hunter & Pound For Pound, Return of the Candyman (Blue Note, 1998)
Will Bernard 4-Tet, Medicine Hat (Antilles, 1998)
Noe Venable, No Curses Here (Intuition, 1998)
Jenny Scheinman Quartet, The Django Project (Jenny Scheinman, 1998)
Charlie Hunter Quartet, Natty Dread (Blue Note, 1997)
Charlie Hunter Quartet, Ready... Set... Shango! (Blue Note, 1996)
T.J. Kirk, If Four Was One (Warner Bros, 1996)
T.J. Kirk, T.J. Kirk (Warner Bros, 1995)
Greenlief-Amendola Duo, Collect My Thoughts (9 Winds, 1995)