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CD/LP/Track Review

Kudu: Kudu (2000)

By Published: September 1, 2001
Kudu: Kudu Kudu is a supremely talented outfit that, believe me, is not long destined for the intimate venues where they presently can be so heartily enjoyed. Sylvia Gordon (very young, no integers assigned to females) is a powerful, sultry songstress that recalls some our current-day bohemiam R and B soulqueens, while, quite thankfully, lacking their their thinness in the higher registers. Deantoni Parks, at 23, stands ready to take his place in the top handful of contemporary drummers in the world. I have yet to see anyone drumming live drum'n'bass better, and haven't spoken to a soul that knows his playing that disagrees, including compatriots that stand right with him in this specialized subgenre of skin abuse. Meanwhile, keyboard-men Peter Stolzman (who is related (quite ) to the amazing clarinetist) and Nick Kasper create the harmonic underpinning, which ranges from the textural/ethereal to orchestral,huge pads, as well as the the harmonic interest floating over the top, whether it be in the form of vintage Herbieesque Rhodes statements or B3 style organ runs to synth-enabled guitar leads or bop faux- trumpet lines. Lately, they've been playing all the basslines (live, not sequenced) for the smaller live shows as well, which is sort of a major change, since, I forgot to mention, Sylvia is quite capable of laying down the nasty groove on five string bass as well.

As for Ms. Gordon, she can be dreamlike'n'ethereal like Tracey Thorn (of EBTG) or Beth Gibbons (of Portishead), but she doesn't hide her potent instrument under layers of arrangements, sound effects or reverb, like so many female vocalist/writers in that idiom. This does not mean to imply she is flexing her chops, just that she has them in her arsenal and that, upon occasion, they are deservingly and unobtrusively exhibited. The jazz vocabulary is an integral part of her style, and like the aforementioned current crop of new R'n'Bohemian queens, the spectres of Billie, Sarah and Ella can be willed up at a moment's notice, only to be dropped out or combined with the myriad other elements constituting her own commanding persona.

What the band does is very simply, transcend all manner of musical boundaries while fashioning a style of its own (they appear here under the "electronica" category, but just as easily could be placed in "funk/Groove"-they have also received a lot of nice press in the "Jamband" world). Saying they meld jazz and R&B with drum-n-bass, electronica, hip-hop, or whatever other subset of DJ culture you want to slip into the mix, doesn't do justice to the experience of hearing them. And let me emphasize (remember,you heard it here first), this band is going to blow up real soon so get yourself out to a live show before it becomes way more difficult. I would venture to say that, while there are very few bands working within the context of the types of sounds found herein that posess Kudu's all-around musical ability and flexibilty, there are fewer still operating at such musical levels (I honestly can't think of any ) that incorporate vocalists at all, let alone one with the prodigious talent of Ms. Gordon.

Check out "Hit," which turns out to be cleverly titled as it incorporates huge keyboard pads played in conjunction with the opening bass line, then opens up sonically, within which Gordon is given ample oppurtunity for vocal seduction. The drums here are more rockin' than the rest of the disc until the middle of the tune opens up again for Deantoni, who is not dabbling in drum science here. An accomplished jazz drummer who has played with Marion McPartland and Oteil Burbridge, among others, and has recently been actively sought after in the "conventional" R'n'B world, Deantoni started playing these beats with emphasis as a composer first and new generation technical funky drummer second. Listen to the dope skittering styles and raw speed of "Restless," the long, drawn out, machine-like atmospherics of "Sugar," or the fusion chops of "Tell Me a Bedtime Story." To give you an idea of the level of what's going on, Deantoni often will do sets with DJs, who basically mix the drums as far out of the vinyl as possible, so that he can play his inhumanly executed parts on a kit consisting of "regular" snare, hi-hat, mini-snare, bass drum, tom, ride and crash. I've seen him hit live over a Squarepusher/Ninjatune collaboration that incorporates some of baddest, most frenetic and fastest beats, created electronically, in drum'n'bass history, all while putting his own stamp on it.

And by the way, if you really want to feel seduced, check out Sylvia on "Cannibal," wherein she uses the metaphor of the title to to describe the obsession of relationships. I cannot convey with the poeticism of her lyrics the degree to which I'm certainly obsessed with the flavors Kudu has thrown down on its debut release. By all means try 'em yourself at Velour Music or their own website.


Track Listing: 1. Temptation 2. Sugar 3. Surprise 4. Cannibal 5. Tell Me a Bedtime Story 6. Cinemajik 7. Restless 8. Relax

Personnel: Sylvia Gordon ?vocals, bass, Deantoni Parks-drums, percussion,samples, Peter Stolzman and Nick Kasper-keys, sounds

Record Label: Velour Music

Style: Electronica



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