in performance: the dead kenny g’s with freekbass

the dead kenny g's, minus wigs: mike dillon, skerik and brad houser.

the dead kenny g's, minus wigs: mike dillon, skerik and brad houser.

Honestly, now. What’s not to love about a band called The Dead Kenny Gs? The name alone suggests a sense of fantastical hope for today’s pop world. But throw in the fact the three band members – all road-tested vets in jam band and progressive jazz circles – took the stage donning blood spattered white shirts (well, red ink and paint embellished shirts, if you insist on the truth) and curly cue wigs and you had a ideal send up of a certain mock-jazz celebrity.

The thing is, though, The Dead Kenny Gs are no joke when the music gets rolling. During the first of two hour-plus sets last night at Cosmic Charlie’s, the trio put the lighter, more fanciful jazz cool of their recordings on hold in favor of more monstrous workouts that shifted from avant-funk grooves to punk-fortified blasts to sinewy jams augmented by guest bassist/funk stylist Freekbass.

The meat of the trio jams had the Gs doing instrumental double time. Tenor saxophonist Skerik blew coarse clusters of notes heavily embellished by pedal effects that mimicked guitar sounds. That gave the set’s heavier tunes a metal-inspired drive. But he also countered the mayhem with Rhodes piano-style punctuation on a small, portable keyboard. Bassist Brad Houser amped up grooves with fuzzy effects and countered the rhythms with blasts on baritone sax. Finally, drummer Mike Dillon laid down all kinds of sharp, thunderous and exact beats, yet colored the set sporadically on vibraphone and tabla.

Beyond that, attitude ran the show. I’m Your Manager, I’m Your Pimp was all rabid, punk-funk fun. Black Death sported staccato sax and drum fury with a mad, Zappa-esque flair. And a set closing jam with Freakbass employed a rubbery bass ostinato as a melodic device that played off of Skerik to produce a psychedelic variation of vintage James Brown funk.

Admittedly, it would have been nice to hear Dillon expound more on the vibes and have the trio explore more of the ensemble dynamics that spark its new Operation Long Leash album. But the punk, metal and funk extremes were obviously preferred last night in bringing these wigged out Dead G-men to performance life.

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