Jeff Kaiser / Kronomorphic / Keneally-Minnemann-Beller: San Diego, March 11, 2011
Holding everything together was percussionist extraordinaire Nathan Hubbard, on vibraphone. Playing a role similar to Bobby Hutcherson's epic work with free jazz icon Eric Dolphy, Hubbard at times set up the melody with neat, ascending melodic repetitions, and other times established the modal centers with haunting two mallet intervals. As a soloist, he was fascinating, and, in the ensembles, he was essential.
The set began with "Tehauntepec" from Kronomorphic's latest release, Micro Temporal Infundibula (pfMENTUM, 2010). The piece evoked coastal Mexican marimba ensembles being led into an entirely new 10-beat meter territory. Borgo and Barrett played the repeating haunting motif until Barrett broke loose with a solo that sounded like the result of a Toots Thielemans, Pauline Oliveros tryst.
They followed up with "Perambulate," which featured a killer bass ostinato from Biggs, set in a 3-against-4 groove with an aching melody that spilled into evocative solos from Barrett and Hubbard. Borgo took the final solo, on soprano, and he demonstrated a fascinating style that had echoes of Steve Lacy, Wayne Shorter and Dave Liebman (with whom he's studied).
Kronomorphic is one of those groups that are doing something entirely new. Its take on interlocking metric groove's layered with memorable melodies and virtuosic outward-bounding soloing, was nothing short of astounding. Fresh and innovative, Kronomorphic delivers.
Mike Keneally/Marco Minnemann/Bryan Beller
Mike Keneally, who was one of the late Frank Zappa's "stunt" guitarists, is an eclectic virtuoso of the highest order. He can and does play in a dizzying amount of stylistic genres. He also sings and plays keyboards, and has written and recorded songs with XTC's Andy Partridge. On the other side of things, he released an Albert Ayler tribute record with Vinny Golia. In other words, the guy's all over the place.
This concert concentrated on his wide-ranging hard rock trio that tours under the moniker of KMB. Most of the compositions were actually written by the German born (now San Diego resident) drummer, Marco Minnemann, who seemed to be coming out of a Billy Cobham-meets-Stewart Copland bag. Minnemann's playing was always clear, precise, and very busy. KMB was just coming off a European tour, so its interplay was rock-solid.
It would be tempting to refer to Keneally as a fusion guitarist, but for this gig, he mostly eschewed the jazz elements that are part of his background. One thing for sure, though, KMB's brand of rock was full of wicked, intricate components and this band could start, stop and turn on a dime.
Keneally has an intensely devoted, almost rabid, fan base who came from far and near to hear their man. There were also two dedicated, professionally equipped videographers set up in various locations to document the concert. At least one of them tries to film 85 -95% of every stateside Keneally gig. They have fans in Europe doing the same thing.
The Keneally trio's set began with the multifaceted opus, "Skunk" which actually sounded like three or four different pieces spliced together. In this respect there was a definite link to guitarist Bill Frisell's trio with Joey Baron and Kermit Driscoll, back in the 1980s. Like Frisell's unit, KMB could shift from one groove to another radically different mood instantaneously. "Skunk" even had a section that morphed into a "jazz-cocktail" minor chord vamp, complete with walking bass line, before shifting again into the hard rock dynamic.
Keneally showed some admirable chops throughout the evening, playing a song with enough chord changes in it to have given Joe Pass carpal tunnel syndrome. The guitarist announced another piece as being in the "circus-metal" genre. This one actually sounded more like demented skating rink music for troubled teens.
Keneally brought up David Borgo to sit in on a totally free improvised piece, and it was another interesting bit of genre-smashing. Bryan Beller got a single solo, (which was excellent), featuring his heavily processed wah-wah and phase -shifted bass in a dreamy, slurred-note soliloquy.
Minnemann took two full-length drum solos that sparked guttural howls of "yeah" and piercing whistles from his fans in the audience. Both solos were chockfull of chops and technical, almost military precision. It's easy to see why he sells a lot of drum instructional videos and books.
Keneally also sang several tunes and it was there where his connection to the late Frank Zappa was most obvious. Like Zappa, his lyrics tend to favor some rather silly subjects, like his "Cow-ology" suite. Unfortunately, the P.A. system didn't really allow the words to come out very clearly, so some of the jokes were lost into the noisy atmosphere.