October 8, 2008
THE JAZZ OBSERVER
Review: Scott Amendola Trio at Yoshi’s
By Forest Dylan Bryant

Scott Amendola’s exuberance for the drums cannot be overstated. Nor can it be contained: before his band mates had even gotten into position on the Yoshi’s stage last night, Amendola was off and away, instantaneously falling into a kind of trance. With Chicago guitarist Jeff Parker on one side and bassist John Shifflett on the other, Amendola delivered both gleeful intensity and hushed simplicity, balancing broad, fluid strokes with laserlike precision and maintaining an inventive spirit throughout the first set.

Amendola and Parker are a natural pairing. Each belongs to a nebulous, cross-pollinating ecosystem of bands that bridges seemingly incompatible spaces—from aggressive noise and post-rock experimentalism to avant-garde and bop-based jazz styles. Both are fond of live electronics, extending the ranges of their instruments through loops and on-the-fly effects. Together, they are more than capable of generating an almighty racket. But the mood on this occasion was relatively restrained, reaching a few crescendoes but more concerned overall with concepts of groove and atmosphere.

Parker’s playing was pointed and economical, often with a quizzical air, as geometric doodles jostled with introspective flights. There were a handful of spaced-out, crunchy twangs, but also a sense of toe-tapping, bluesy cool.

Shifflett, relaxed and smiling, held a timekeeping role against Amendola’s constant swirl, delivering walking riffs and morse-code beats spiked with brief explosions of detail, or strolling into dangerously twisting labyrinths, only to emerge unscathed. His serene manner stood in sharp contrast to Amendola, whose tattooed, wiry arms flailed in ceaseless motion.

Stretching out blankets of rhythm, tweaking dials to create spooky, hallucinogenic moods or digging into a sunny, rolling pattern, the drummer set the tone and blazed a trail forward. Although attendance was sparse, Amendola had quietly billed the evening as a live recording session. So perhaps a wider audience will get to hear these innovative trio pieces in the near future.

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