Kneebody: A Review - June 29th at Rivoli

NY-based quintet Kneebody hit the stage at Rivoli Friday night, marking their first performance in Canada. The set featured music from a number of albums – fruits of their 12-year collaboration.

The musicians remained relaxed as they pulled off metrically complex songs. The various tempo changes, signalled by musical cues, were seamless.

Unique moments of the performance included saxophonist Ben Wendel blowing into the bell of his mic-ed horn and manipulating the sound with a pedal for a particular effect, and his playing of the crash cymbal along with drummer Nate Wood. As a soloist, Wendel explored the range of his horn and a wealth of traditional patterns.

Wood impressed me with his ability to support and contribute to the group without overpowering the other instruments, especially in this pseudo-rock environment. Unfortunately, bass (Kaveh Rastegar) and Fender Rhodes (Adam Benjamin) overwhelmed the mix instead. The constant wash of mids and lows created a boominess that kept the horns from really carrying, despite their mics.

When all five members were playing, the density of sound and poor mix created a loud wash – leaving the ear with nowhere to rest throughout much of the improvisation.

Consequently, my favourite moments were those in which the texture (and as a result of poor sound, the boom) were thinned out and there was more of a focal point to the melody/improvisation. This ended up exposing the horns, both of whom had great tones and a great blend.

The enthusiastic crowd was, for the most part, unfazed by the volume and sound. Seeing Kneebody north of the border was enough to get them on their feet.

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