The Wexner Center for the Arts’ jazz season rolls on with the cutting-edge collaboration of Kneebody and Daedelus, Kneedelus, coming through the center on November 6 at 8pm (tickets available here). This collaborative tour of the jazz quintet and electronic musician leads up to the release of their eponymous record out November 27 on Brainfeeder. Please click through for more info on the artists as well as videos.
Kneebody features a front line of Shane Endsley on trumpet and Ben Wendel on sax with a fiery rhythm section of Adam Benjamin on keys, Kavesh Ravtegar on bass, and Nate Wood on drums. A combination of childhood friends and college pals (alums of Eastman and CalArts) who have carved a unique shared language in the ten years since their eponymous album was released. A true collective, every member writes and there’s a democracy in what makes it onto their records or survives the crucible of their live shows. One of the few successful crossover bands who cross over without pandering, in Kneebody there’s always an equal affinity for the rhythms of hip-hop and post-Radiohead indie rock as the textures of post-Schoenberg art songs and the harmonic possibilities of jazz.
To hint at the breadth of their inspirations and how far they’ve taken them, within three years they released a record of Daedelus Remixes (prefiguring this current collaboration), a record of songs by American vanguard composer Charles Ives with Theo Bleckmann (who has also been a visitor to the Wex and set that stage aflame), and Low Electrical Worker which Joshua Redman (who blew minds in his collaboration with The Bad Plus a couple of weeks ago) called “one of his favorite albums” of the year of its release. With every record they slip out of the strictures of category a little more and also sound more like themselves, making instrumental music that tips its hat to influences and peers but only ever sounds like Kneebody.
As good as the records are, their live shows are what people keep talking about and for good reason. They’ve developed a language of cueing one through changes and solos, which Adam Benjamin discusses in a fascinating interview with Vikram of music blog Twenty Dollars that keeps arrangements fluid and makes true the hoary aphorism of improvised music being much like a conversation. On a personal note, I saw Kneebody play at the Culture Project Theater on Bleecker Street for Winter Jazz Fest a couple years ago, ending my Friday night. It was, in a night full of wonders and full of packed clubs and theaters, the most intense set and, easily, the most intense audience. Looking at my fellow patrons, I saw critics, other musicians you’ve seen written up here and elsewhere, radio personalities, hardcore jazz fans, people who looked like they’d be equally comfortable at a jam band show, and the elusive “mainstream” audience it’s claimed jazz doesn’t reach anymore. Most of them losing their minds, shouting, egging the band on. It was a set that kept me floating for 20 blocks back to my hotel and it’s a memory that’s still with me.
Daedelus (Alfred Darrington) studied jazz at USC as a college student and recruited Ben Wendel to add reeds to many of his records, starting down the road to this collaboration. He’s remixed a who’s who of heavy hitters, from Flying Lotus and Amon Tobin (both of whose work bears more than trace elements of jazz) to cutup pioneers Coldcut and exoticists Prefuse 73 and Quantic. He’s released fascinating records of his own on Ninja Tune (where I first became aware of him), Anticon and most recently on Flying Lotus’ label Brainfeeder. The released track from this collaborative album, “Drum Battle,” is an intoxicating blend of hard abstraction and rich songcraft that promises one of the most exciting shows of the year.