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Despite a Grammy, T.J. Kirk quit in '97. Now the jazz-fusion quartet returns.

Wednesday, Dec 24 2003
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Take the offbeat melodics of Thelonious Monk and add a heapin' helpin' of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the underrated soloist and out-jazz legend famous for playing several horns at once. Now smooth out the concoction with a healthy dose of James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, whose surprisingly sophisticated tunes are themselves a culmination of a half-century of roots music. What you've got is T.J. Kirk , the modest little side project of Bay Area guitar prodigy Charlie Hunter. Despite its secondary status, the band burst onto the scene in the mid-'90s, scored a major-label contract (with Warner Bros.), and was nominated for a Grammy during its brief existence. That nomination came in 1997 for the quartet's second and final LP, If Four Was One. Soon after, Hunter lit out for New York with his other, eponymous quartet to seek further fame and fortune on the Blue Note label.

Featuring local guitar heroes John Schott and Will Bernard -- that's 20 strings altogether, counting Hunter's own custom-made eight-stringer -- T.J. Kirk was anchored by drummer Scott Amendola, who more than ably offset all that twanging with his deft, groove-laden rhythms. At its best, the band not only found ways to open up Brown-esque soul epics like "Get on the Good Foot" with exhilarating, extended jams, but also managed to make butt-shaking boogies out of Kirk and Monk standards such as "Four in One." For that reason, T.J. Kirk is best experienced live, and for the first time in six years, Hunter has revived the quartet on the occasion of a new album (recorded live at a 1997 show), to be released soon on Rope a Dope Records. This concert is a rare opportunity for fans to sample some vintage Bay Area jazz-funk fusion, and see for themselves what all the fuss was about.

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David Hadbawnik

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