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Kneebody: Kneebody

Album Notes

After leaving RCA/Bluebird, avant-garde jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas started his own label, Greenleaf Music -- and the game plan was to release his own albums on Greenleaf in addition to spotlighting new artists he felt were deserving of exposure. The first non-Douglas release on Greenleaf was this self-titled CD by Kneebody, whose blend of jazz, rock, and funk demonstrates that being funky and being cerebral are not mutually exclusive. Kneebody's material isn't funky in the way that the music of the Crusaders, Charles Earland, Ronnie Laws, and Grover Washington, Jr. is funky; this isn't the type of down-home, grits-and-gravy, gutbucket soul-jazz that one associates with those artists. But Kneebody is funky in a probing, more intellectual way that brings to mind electric Miles Davis (trumpeter Shane Endsley is obviously hip to Bitches Brew and Tribute to Jack Johnson) as well as Herbie Hancock's Sextant, the group Hancock led before the Headhunters -- and there are hints of free funk on occasion (although Kneebody isn't nearly as far to the left as, say, Jamaaladeen Tacuma or Ornette Coleman & Prime Time). If this is an inside/outside project, the inside maintains the upper hand. But Kneebody certainly doesn't cater to jazz purists or bop snobs; there is way too much rock and funk in their approach for them to be considered part of the Young Lion movement that trumpeter Wynton Marsalis has been pushing since the '80s. Nonetheless, this 2005 release definitely has a jazz improviser's mentality; the solos of Endsley, saxman Ben Wendel, and keyboardist Adam Benjamin have a commitment to spontaneity that says "jazz" in no uncertain terms. Kneebody's work isn't innovative by mid-2000s standards, but it's a likable reminder of the fact that jazz doesn't have to be "pure" to be worthwhile. ~ Alex Henderson


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