For almost 10 years, Scott Amendola has been quietly doing his part to hold up the drumming end of the local music scene. If you're an acid jazz fan, you've probably grooved to his rhythms at a Phil Lesh show; if you're a modern dance fan, you might've heard him playing for choreographer Joe Goode; if you're an avant-garde jazz fan, you may have seen him with John Zorn. But Amendola's steadiest and highest-profile gig has been with guitarist Charlie Hunter, with whom he has recorded Grammy-nominated albums such as T.J. Kirk's If Four Was Oneand popular Charlie Hunter Quartet albums like Natty Dread and Ready, Set, Shango! Hunter's funky, eclectic sound wasn't just the latest in a series of styles that the young New Jersey native mastered; instead, it was a blueprint for the experimentation that Amendola is determined to pursue now that he's finally doing his own project.
The self-produced Scott Amendola BandLP ought to confirm that Amendola is indeed the most inventive and innovative percussionist in the Bay Area; the album also expands rather than narrows the myriad forms he's embraced so far. Amendola turns rock and pop classics such as Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression" and Nick Drake's "One of These Things First" into goofy Muzak that flows fluidly into jazz, while his own compositions glide effortlessly between jazz, rock, and funk. His beautiful "Hymn" calls to mind the extended jams of Albert Ayler and John Coltrane, with sax player Eric Crystal wailing admirably while Amendola scats and crashes away underneath.
Amendola and band began a monthlong run at Cafe Du Nord last week, with special guests stopping in each session to pay their respects to the man who's backed them up so many times before. This week, Tin Hat Trio violin/viola virtuoso Carla Kihlstedt sits in.