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Freakytime Gorilla Museum

Maybe it was sampling home-brewed absinthe the night of the performance, but Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's concert last Saturday at the Attic was one of the most surreal experiences in my young life. Suspended above the band in an iron cage, Butoh dancer Shinichi Momo Koga provided a writhing and grotesque counterpoint to the music onstage, his inverted and suspended frame jerking back and forth as waves of sound issued forth from the contorted instruments of the ensemble.

With his twin ponytails and mighty mutton chops, Nil Frykdahl was the platonic ideal of a carnival barker at center stage, pointing out the motions of the trapped dancer with his cane and offering the dancer's movements as the final gasps of the last human being. Alternating between a Geddy Lee falsetto and a baritone that would make James Hetfield proud, Frykdahl's vocals were an amalgamation of death metal fury, cabaret crooning and more than a subtle shading of Tom Waits' postapocalyptic carnival ringleader. Captain Beefheart would be amused.

Carla Kilstedt prowled stage left, resplendent in Kabuki makeup and darkly dyed eye shadow. In addition to her regular violin, she played several constructed instruments, including one that looked kind of like a sarod and another that was a typical violin with a trumpet horn attached to the sound board. Her movements and facial expressions bordered on frightening, but her playing was damn impressive. Paganini would approve of Kilstedt's innovations in the new school of death metal violin.

Behind Kilstedt, the kitchen sink was literally onstage, along with cookie sheets, bowls and a hefty amount of lumber. All of these accoutrements were artfully bashed by Matthias Bossi. His cacophonous backing served to amp up the intensity of a show where subtlety knew no place.

Sayre's Secret Stash

It was a busy week for Sayre. On Tuesday, Oct. 25, he put together a record release party at the Red for his recently released collaboration with Breezy Jordan the Bachelor: Red Radio Volume 1: Born All Over. On Friday, he took up the mic for an evening of local hip-hop at the Blue Lagoon featuring the talents of Proe, Richie Cunning, Rob Rush and the Lost and Found Generation. These emcees have matured over the years, and are now at the peak of their powers, producing emotional, intelligent and sophisticated hip-hop. The night featured much more collaboration and appreciation than senseless battle rhyming and infighting. Oakland-born neosoul singer Jennifer John finished up the evening. Fresh off six weeks in Europe supporting Blackalicious, John and her supporting musicians made the walls of the Blue reverberate with some tasteful grooves that did credit to the neosoul movement. No angelic crooner, Johns is occasionally gritty in her lyrics, but one of the most generous performers ever to grace the stage. She is all smiles and warmth in front of her band, even as she tells tales of urban hardships and love gone all too wrong.

Mr. Scofield and Mr. Charles

Unless you are a huge jazz geek, you could pass John Scofield by and never know how goddamn funky he is. Tall, bald and angular, he doesn't give off the aura of genius, until he takes up the guitar. Working with Ray Charles' songbook for his Oct. 27 performance at the Kuumbwa, Scofield lead a lean band consisting of Meyer Statham on vocals and trombone, John Benitez on bass, Gary Versace on Hammond B3 and Wurlitzer and Steve Hass on drums, Mr. Scofield dropped pure funk and sophistication over Mr. Charles' charts.

Statham was particularly impressive on "I Can't Stop Loving You," and Versace's Wurlitzer work on "What'd I Say" brought the house up onto its feat toward the end of the set, but it was Scofield's night. Over the years he has developed a huge vocabulary on the guitar, one that incorporates all 12 tones, electronic wizardry and just plain noise to stretch the confines of playing within the changes. While most musicians with his pedigree begin to coast on their back catalog and scale back on the innovations, Scofield is adding to his bag of tricks and working with musicians who challenge his skills instead of merely propping up his legacy. He's more than good, he's an inspiration.

Peter Koht

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From the November 2-9, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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