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19.5.12

T.J. Kirk



T.J. Kirk - T.J. Kirk - 1995 - Warner Bros

Return with us now to an earlier, seemingly more innocent time, when the San Francisco Bay Area was awash with youthful energy and promise, when the S.F. neighborhood known as SoMa was buzzing to a new sound, and a generation found its voice. When nightclubs such as the Paradise Lounge, the Up and Down Club, and Club Eleven teemed with young, affluent and partially educated cognoscenti, sprinkled with celebrities such as Christie Turlington, Rob Schneider and Charles Barkley. It is, of course, naive to imagine that we could see this earlier era through rose-colored glasses, knowing too well how all this energy and promise came to such disappointment and ruin. The money ran out, the clubs folded, and the record companies moved on to some bright new oasis of cool. Today SoMa is a desolate and bitter landscape with too many places to park. Musicians who once played piper at the gates of the dot com dawn now hold down lonely straight jobs with no benefits. The names of such endeavors such as Alphabet Soup, the Charlie Hunter Trio and Jazz On the Line now belong to history, architects of a musical gumbo as bold as the City's famous Nouvelle Cuisine. Musicians fled from all parts of the country to be a part of this vibrant and distinctive sound. Record contracts were being signed as fast as they could be printed, and among the brightest jewels in this crown was a little collaboration between friends, known as James T. Kirk. Oops, I mean T.J. KIRK. During their short lived life, T. J. Kirk, nursing the engorged breast of Warner Bros. and in collaboration with legendary producer Lee Townsend, made two highly regarded CDs that today fetch a tidy sum on eBay. The second of these two, 1995's "If Four Was One", was nominated for a Grammy. In addition, recordings of their incendiary live shows became widely circulated in collector's circles and over the internet. This live performance CD from 1997 represents the band's attempt to get a piece of the action. That attempt, although not unmotivated by greed, is a belated acknowledgement on the part of the band as to the actual worth of their whimsical endeavor. T.J. Kirk was always a combustible mix of strong egos and musicians. Will Bernard and Charlie Hunter, the oldest and youngest members in the group, had both grown up in Berkeley and gone to the city's sole public high school, with its justly celebrated music program. Scott Amendola hailed from Tenafly, New Jersey, and brought to the band discipline and professionalism. John Schott, who a staff publicist at Warner Bros. once mystifyingly dubbed the "mad blues scientist" of the group, was an amateur musicologist from Seattle who, amazingly, had never played guitar until a week before the band's first rehearsal. Or so went the rumours. From the beginning it was often difficult to establish where the hype left off and the myth began. The T. J. Kirk experience brought together the music of patriarchs "Thelonious Monk, "James Brown, and Rahsaan Roland "Kirk," spiced with Little Richard, Prince, and Bob Wills, in a sensuous and heady brew of guitars, grooves, and historical anxiety. With a dizzying predilection for cutting across a wide range of stylistic genres and leavening the results with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, T. J. Kirk put on a musical variety show that was not to be missed. "It's like putting your head in a blender," commented John Schott, unhelpfully. © 2011 ScottAmendola.com © http://www.scottamendola.com/bands/tjkirk.html

T.J. Kirk is a guitars/bass/drums quartet whose name reflects a bizarre and wonderful repertoire: they are devoted to the interpretation of works by Thelonious Monk ("T."), James Brown ("J.") and Rahsaan Roland Kirk ("Kirk"). Like Paul Motian's Electric Bebop Band, these four have a solid grounding in both jazz and rock; unlike the Motian band, these guys all wear fezzes and are capable of making a funkily cogent medley of Monk's "In Walked Bud" and Brown's "I Got to Move." And while Motian's group focuses primarily on solos, T.J. Kirk is all about settings; it's the reggae version of Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery" (complete with dubwise detour) and the band's almost grungy take on "Shuffle Boil" that will catch and hold your attention, whereas Will Bernard's and John Schott's solos are mostly workmanlike and not terribly remarkable. Elsewhere, the band gives up the funk without downplaying the harmonic complexity of such classics as "Epistrophy" and "Serenade to a Cuckoo." Plainly put, this is a great album, perfect for bringing along to parties or cranking up in the car. © Rick Anderson © 2012 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://www.allmusic.com/album/tj-kirk-r223660

A unique jazz-funk "coverband" who re-invented the music of Thelonious Monk, James Brown and Rassan Roland Kirk in an unusual, clever, very innovative, and satisfying way. "The T. J. Kirk experience brought together the music of patriarchs "Thelonious Monk, "James Brown, and Rahsaan Roland "Kirk," spiced with Little Richard, Prince, and Bob Wills, in a sensuous and heady brew of guitars, grooves, and historical anxiety. With a dizzying predilection for cutting across a wide range of stylistic genres and leavening the results with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humor, T. J. Kirk put on a musical variety show that was not to be missed. "It's like putting your head in a blender," commented John Schott, unhelpfully. © 2011 ScottAmendola.com © http://www.scottamendola.com/bands/tjkirk.html". A great album by four of the best players in the business, and HR by A.O.O.F.C. Listen to the band's superb "If Four Was One" album [All tracks @ 320 Kbps: File size = 89.1 Mb]

TRACKS / COMPOSERS

1 Soul Power - Brown, Ellis 4:25
2 Teo - Monk 4:50
3 Bemsha Swing - Best, Monk 3:53
4 Shuffle Boil/You Can Have Watergate Just Gimme Some Bucks and I'll Be Straight - Brown, Monk 5:47
5 Volunteered Slavery - Kirk 5:43
6 Serenade to a Cuckoo - Kirk 4:55
7 Freaks for the Festival - Kirk 3:30
8 Cold Sweat/Rip, Rig & Panic - Brown, Ellis, Kirk 4:59
9 Humph - Monk 3:48
10 Epistrophy - Clarke, Monk 4:15
11 I Got to Move/In Walked Bud - Brown, Monk 5:12
12 Jackie-Ing - Monk 0:38

BAND

Will Bernard, John Schott - Guitar
Charlie Hunter - 8 String Guitar, Bass
Scott Amendola - Drums, Percussion

BIO

T.J. Kirk may not be remembered in the annals of jazz/fusion history, but the quartet's story is uniquely its own. Formed by eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter as a side group to his own self-titled and San Francisco-based band, T.J. Kirk was a cover act that took its name from the three artists making up its catalog: Thelonius Monk, James Brown, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Hunter's recording career had started in 1993, and he brought his group's drummer, Scott Amendola, into T.J. Kirk to join the more conventional six-string guitarists Will Bernard and John Schott. The band wanted to be called James T. Kirk, but settled for T.J. Kirk for their 1995 self-titled debut CD when they didn't get permission to use the original moniker from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's estate. The album gave Hunter license to play in styles even more funky than with his own ensemble, as the eight-string guitarist often played bass lines and guitar melodies (usually simultaneously) and even added keyboard-like textures on his customized Novax instrument. Combined with Amendola's muscular drumming, Hunter's versatility allowed Bernard and Schott the freedom to re-work their namesake trio's classics like "Soul Power," "Bemsha Swing," and "Serenade to a Cuckoo." The group's 1996 follow-up, If Four Was One, was even better. T.J. Kirk had a knack not only for mimicking Brown's soul epics ("Get on the Good Foot," "The Payback"), but also making danceable the jazz standards of Monk and Kirk ("Damn Right I'm Somebody," "Ruby, My Dear," "Four in One"). Yet Hunter, never one to stand pat, was making changes in his own band's career. When he covered reggae legend Bob Marley's time-honored Natty Dread album, instrumentally and in its entirety, in 1997, and in the process made one of his best CDs, T.J. Kirk was essentially finished except for the live bootleg recordings. The death of Hunter's saxophonist Calder Spanier in an auto accident later in the year -- and Hunter's decision to move from the Bay Area to New York in 1998 -- officially ended the reign of T.J. Kirk. But as anyone who's heard their releases knows, T.J. Kirk is the unofficial captain of jazz/fusion's all-time cover bands. Further evidence appeared in 2005 when the Rope-A-Dope label issued a 1997 concert by the band as Talking Only Makes It Worse. © Bill Meredith © 2012 Rovi Corporation. All Rights Reserved http://allmusic.com/artist/tj-kirk-p165793/biography

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