Scott Amendola Band

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On this disc, Bay Area drum/percussion/electronics maestro Scott Amendola serves as galactic center for an array of stellar collaborators including venerable violinist Jenny Scheinman, redoubtable double-bassist John Shifflett, and six-string shape-shifters Jeff Parker and Nels Cline. All of these players are mainstays of various improvisational music scenes, and Amendola has devised compositional contexts that showcase their individual voices while simultaneously maintaining an ensemble feel. Improvised music is often overly self-indulgent and “difficult” for many listeners, but you won’t find any gratuitous blowing going on here—only damn good music that should appeal to a broad spectrum of listeners, particularly guitarists.

The relatively straight-ahead opener, “Believe,” juxtaposes subtle volume swells, harmonics, loops, and other textural elements against a dark and pulsing bass and drum groove. Next comes the afro-beat-driven “Oladipo,” replete with palm-muted rhythmic comping, funky interlocking arpeggios, and soaring solos—including a sputtering, Latin-tinged fuzz romp. The remaining seven compositions are equally engaging, and include the bopping “Smarty Pants,” the gentle ballad “If Only Once,” and “Resistance,” which opens with an intriguing noise-collage courtesy of Parker and Cline. This is a wonderful recording chock full of fabulous guitar playing. Cryptogramophone. —Barry Cleveland