Archive for in performance

in performance: triptych

Triptych. From left, Matt Ulery, Zach Brock and Jon Deitemyer.

The definition of a triptych is an alliance of three artistic parts linked for a common purpose or vision. That explains perhaps how any jazz trio operates, but it is understandably true for Triptych, the band Lexington violinist Zach Brock has designed with bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Jon Deitemyer. Of course, there is a common, unified voice at work here. But judging by its late set last night at Tee Dee’s Lounge, there is nothing obvious about the music that voice constructs.

In other words, Triptych doesn’t operate as a standard bop-inspired jazz unit, although there were fragments of that sound within the trio’s expansive musical vocabulary. Overall, though, Triptych sounded more restless than that.

For the Ulery tune “Cavendish,” that meant utilizing a skittish, mischievous melody that would regularly shift tempos and rhythms the way a vintage Dave Brubeck composition might. On Brock’s “Cryface,” a tune that took its unlikely inspiration from the facial contortions actress Claire Danes summoned to express strife on the TV series “Homeland,” it meant juggling an accessible, almost fusion-esque melody with improvisational passages that included a largely free intro from Brock and, later, playful sparring between the violinist and Ulery.

An almost impromptu cover of Clifford Brown’s “Sandu,” however, began with a touch of indecision – as in, an extended onstage conference between the three players as to what tune was actually going to be played. The piece’s attractive blues sway eventually settled in, but not before some engaging instrumental free-for-alls gave the formulating rhythms a brutish, almost Monk-ish feel.

What was arguably the highlight in a continually engaging set was Deitemyer’s “Cheyenne,” a work that dialed back the ensemble sound for more wistful, lyrical glides colored by Brock’s pizzicato plucking on violin and the subtle blues fabric Ulery and Deitemyer created as a duo.

Triptych heads into the studio next week to cut the original tunes from this set, the concluding performance in the inaugural season of the Origins Jazz Series. It will be interesting to hear how such an arsenal of rhythmic ideas will transfer to the more ordered documentation of a recording. My bet is the music will still rock the joint.

in performance: mavis staples

Mavis Staples.

Mavis Staples isn’t one for letting an opportunity pass her by.

During one of the few moments where she was able to catch her breath during a show rich with revivalistic vigor last night at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, the Grammy-winning gospel/soul vocalist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee gave the audience a gentle verbal nudge to the merchandise table, knowing that Mother’s Day was just a few hours away.

“Y’all can shop for mama right here.”

Judging by the often rapturous sounds that surrounded the 80 minute performance, however, Staples had no need to hawk anything to do with her music. If you didn’t sense the soul and spirit in a show like this, then, brother, you are lost.

The concert was divided between classics Staples sang with her esteemed family band The Staple Singers decades ago and works from her solo career – specifically, tunes from several recent Jeff Tweedy-produced albums.

In short order, though, it was almost beside the point where the material originated. In Staples’ hands, everything became a source of ageless, gospel-esque joy. At 78, she recognizes the limits of her still-potent vocal range, which gave a sagely but soulful cast to Staples Singers classics like “Come Go With Me,” a contemporary affirmation like Benjamin Booker’s “Take Us Back,” Tweedy’s more ominous “Who Told You That” and, in the setlist’s wildest extreme, Talking Heads’ “Slippery People,” whose underlying spiritual cast became bluntly obvious within Staples’ rueful delivery.

But the clear highlight was “Freedom Highway,” the Staples Singers tune that served as an anthem of sorts during the civil rights movement. It was hard to tell which was more chilling – Staples’ ageless vocal might that roared regally over the lean groove of an instrumental trio and two backup vocalists or the story and subsequent tent revival testimony she summoned after the song’s completion. In plain speaking detail, she described not only how she and her father and siblings were jailed for their participation in the era-defining Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery, but her family’s way of coping with the crisis.

“We’d go to jail, get out and start all over again.” Amen to that.

in performance: todd rundgren’s utopia

Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. From left, Todd Rundgren, Willie Wilcox and Kasim Sulton. Photo by Danny O’Connor.

Three songs into a tireless performance with his band Utopia last night at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre, Todd Rundgren congratulated the audience for surviving what he called “The Blizzard.” In strictly non- meteorological terms, he was referring to the program’s first half hour of music, a set that revisited his prog days of roughly 45 years ago.

It was a stunning segment, too – a triad consisting of “Utopia Theme” (which stretched on for a good 15 minutes through layers of synthesized and percussive frenzy as well as Rundgren’s scholarly power chords and soloing on guitar), an edited instrumental version of “The Ikon” and the anthemic “Another Life.” This was as complex and daring a set of tunes as Rundgren, in his 50 years as a touring artist, has ever presented onstage. The fact that he approached the works, both vocally and instrumentally with such ageless vigor (he turns 70 next month) was something of a triumph and marked, right from the onset, this performance as a winner.

It was a challenging winner, mind you, especially for those who know Rundgren only through his smattering of pop hits that reached rock radio during the ‘70s. But it was a winner notwithstanding.

Just as Rundgren is a stylist with multiple profiles, so is Utopia – a band that, outside from a few brief reunion runs, has been dormant since 1986. In its initial guise, billed as “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia,” it was a thrillseeking prog-pop brigade that extended the synthesized rock its leader paraded on one of many creative zeniths – 1973’s “A Wizard, A True Star” album. But the later band, billed simply as Utopia, was a more democratically inclined quartet that shed the complexities of the former lineup in favor of straight up power pop. This tour unites the latter lineup of Rundgren, bassist/vocalist Kasim Sulton and drummer/vocalist Willie Wilcox with new recruit Gil Assaya serving as an 11th hour replacement on keyboards for Ralph Schuckett (who was sidelined due to health reasons).

But here’s the curious part. This Utopia lineup is the first to extensively explore the repertoire of both bands. As such, after “The Blizzard” medley settled, so did the band into an array of simpler pop fare that shuffled vocals duties between Rundgren, Sulton and Wilcox. In the end, this Utopian gang covered tunes from nine of the band’s ten albums (1980’s “Deface the Music” was the only exclusion).

That meant tackling a fair amount of obscurities, like 1977’s “Communion with the Sun,” which was essentially a bridge between Utopia’s prog and pop camps, as well as intriguing covers that were staples of the earlier Utopia’s mid ‘70s shows (The Move’s “Do Ya” and, oddly enough, the “West Side Story” affirmation “Something’s Coming”).

It was all efficiently and energetically performed. Sulton and Wilcox held up their vocal ends easily on “Set Me Free” and “Princess of the Universe,” respectively, while rookie Assaya proved an expert pinch hitter, neatly executing the near symphonic keyboard lines created by Shuckett and Roger Powell but appearing very much at ease alongside the Utopian vets.

In the end, though, this was Rundgren’s show and not just because the band reverted back to its “Todd Rundgren’s Utopia” billing for this tour. As a guitarist, his playing remains remarkably urgent, whether it was through the elemental riffs he rifled out during “Hammer in My Heart” or the soaring (but way too brief) solo coda applied to “Just One Victory” that concluded the performance. And as referenced earlier, his vocals revealed remarkably little wear from the years. They were still buoyant enough to make a pop confection like “Love is the Answer” sound rich and purposeful and aggressive enough to propel the most elemental of rock offerings, such as the joyous, post-punk flavored “Love in Action.”

It was, in short, a program that offered the best of two Utopias – dual images of a band that remains an integral ambassador from Rundgren’s spacious pop cosmos.

in performance: steve earle and the dukes

Steve Earle.

After winding up the anthemic, pop-savvy sway of “Waiting for You” earlier tonight at Renfro Valley, Steve Earle shook his head, beamed a grin and offered a remark that was tantamount to an apology.

“It was the ‘80s.”

Why the self effacement for one of his own works let alone one of his performances? It might have been that the long forgotten song was one of the 10 compositions that made up “Copperhead Road,” Earle’s 1988 breakthrough album. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the record’s release, he devoted the first half of the concert to a complete performance of the album. That meant digging into the lesser known nuggets – the “chick tunes,” as Earle dismissively described them. But with the electric flexibility possessed by the current lineup of his longrunning Dukes band, Earle turned an exercise in nostalgic appeal into an expansive overview of how his storied career began connecting with a major audiences outside the country spectrum.

The five tunes constituting the album’s first side were, as Earle suggested, stronger. It offered haunting remembrances of Reagan-ism in the country carny yarn “Snake Oil” along with grim glimpses of a country just coming to grips with the post-Vietnam era. The popular title tune, which began the album and tonight’s performance, connected as much for its drug-smuggling danger element as for its more desperate, but humanistic profile of a Vietnam vet on the edge. More effective, though, was the less obvious “Johnny Come Lately,” with its Celtic mandolin/accordion jig delivery.

Earle offered insightful stories to go with the tunes, as well, including a reference to Irish upstarts The Pogues (which played on the recorded version of “Johnny Come Lately”). Color me skeptical, but my guess is this was the one and only time the band will ever get a shout out on a Renfro Valley stage. Another story, oddly enough, explained how the Oak Ridge Boys were the Nashville force largely responsible for getting Earle the recording contract that created career defining albums like “Copperhead Road.”

The rest of the program steered closer to the present with a setlist that boasted the similarly jig-worthy “The Galway Girl,” a heavily traditional country duet with Eleanor Whitmore of the The Mastersons (who served as members of The Dukes as well as the show’s fine opening act) on “I’m Still in Love With You” and a quartet of tunes from last years “So You Wannabe An Outlaw.” The latter concluded with the brooding electric doomsday call of “Fixin’ to Die,” which, in turn, bled into an equally foreboding, but highly faithful cover of “Hey Joe.”

Funny. Such a dark conclusion to the concert brought Earle and the Dukes back to the mean streets they know so well. Three decades on, they still can’t stay away from Copperhead Road.

in performance: foo fighters/the struts

Dave Grohl performing with Foo Fighters last night at Rupp Arena. Photo by Matt Goins.

“Sorry we’re late. My bad.”

That was the succinct apology Dave Grohl offered over 14,000 patrons near the midway point of Foo Fighters’ tireless and exuberant 2 ½ hour performance last night at Rupp Arena.

The tardiness, of course, was a nearly seven month postponement of the concert due to a family emergency. But Grohl and company more than made up for lost time with a show built around rock ‘n’ roll essentials – specifically, punkish immediacy, arena rock expansiveness and a hefty dose of good humor.

It’s easy with the kind of amiable profile possessed by the current six-member lineup of Foo Fighters to overlook just how in charge of the proceedings Grohl really is. The concert began with a live, offstage guitar squall before he entered alone with a mad dash around the front lip of the stage. This continued as the other members were still getting situated. Even when everything coalesced into the furious grind of “Run,” from the Foos’ most recent album “Concrete and Gold,” you sensed the rest of the band was still getting into the groove that Grohl was already running away with.

That was largely how the bulk of the program played out. Only longtime Foos drummer Taylor Hawkins, at times, was allowed the kind of room to roam that Grohl luxuriated in. Indeed, some of the concert’s strongest moments revolved around numerous exchanges between the two players, from the rumbling jam that grew out of “Rope” to the sparring that surfaced from the impressive group dynamics of “My Hero” to a duel that capped off a playfully riotous “Breakout.”

Mostly, though, Grohl and the Foos established themselves as a band of the moment. The recorded versions of the songs offered last night proved to be mere blueprints of what ignited onstage. The anthemic “Walk,” one of two tunes pulled from 2011’s “Wasting Light” album, was built largely around elemental riffs. But the front line guitar team of Grohl, Chris Shiflett and Pat Smear gave such a basic fabric a huge, spacious framework. “The Pretender,” however, was just loose enough in construction for the band to take their time and peel back its post grunge exterior so more rootsy intimations could flourish.

Aside from an extended drum feature from Hawkins, this wasn’t a program that flaunted instrumental solos. Grohl was obviously more taken with mood, namely the kind of jovial spirit summoned from rock ‘n’ roll basics, than technique. Sure, he could scream and hammer out the riffs with ample energy. But he was obviously after the fun element too, an aspect that boiled over late in the program during a set of covers that included snippets of the “Grease” hit “You’re the One That I Want,” a version of the Van Halen staple “Jump” played to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and a respectful take on the Queen/David Bowie classic “Under Pressure.” The latter sent Grohl to the drum kit and left vocal chores to Hawkins and Luke Spiller, whose opening set with the Brit band The Struts was consumed with early ‘70s glam rock. Imagine the forgotten band Slade had Freddie Mercury been hired as singer. That was the vibe.

As a footnote to the evening, Grohl also revealed the cause of the family emergency that prompted the concert’s postponement from last fall – an illness that sidelined his mother. He didn’t elaborate.

“There’s only one thing I love more than the Foo Fighters,” he told the crowd. “And that’s my mama.”

in performance: chris potter

Chris Potter. Photo by Tamas Talaber.

There are fewer artistic triumphs greater for a contemporary musician than to successfully mold and recast and a tradition into something original. There was a striking moment – one of many, really – in tonight’s performance by Chris Potter at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center where that occurred with seemingly accessible ease.

It came went an unaccompanied Potter skirmish on tenor sax eased into “Togo,” a decades old work by the late drummer Ed Blackwell with roots that reached back to melodic traditions from Ghana. Potter, though, presented the tune as a conversation piece with a largely hypnotic sax solo that spread itself patiently over the slight, steadfast support of guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Fima Ephron and drummer Dan Weiss. At times, shades of the tune’s West African heritage were revealed (Togo is the country that borders Ghana on the east). But by the composition’s conclusion, the modest drive of Potter’s tenor lead and his group’s subtle, sustained groove sounded almost Eastern.

The reverence with which Potter addressed the tune with was indicative of the entire 95 minute performance, the most significant booking in the debut season of the locally produced Origins Jazz Series. The quartet was largely structured after Potter’s long running Underground band, although it wasn’t officially billed as such. That meant the prominence of two electric players (Rogers and Ephron) along with modest electronic embellishments on Potter’s part that provided loops and echo effects to brief runs on clarinet and flute that created an attractive orchestral ambience at times.

While the bulk of the show flirted with notions of funk and fusion, the music never fully surrendered to either. The funk rolls in the concert-closing “The Wheel,” for instance, embraced groove even though the tune’s restless nature continually shifted rhythmic gears. The same held true for the opening “Train,” which juggled moments of funk and boppish glee, and “Pop Tune # 1,” which tastefully suggested elements of Southern style soul more than any overt pop strains.

As a footnote, it was enormously encouraging to see such a hearty turnout for this performance. Jazz – serious, adventurous, sit-down-and-listen jazz – is a hard sell outside of major metropolitan markets. While the Lyric was well short of capacity, the attendance was generous enough to suggest the Origin Jazz Series may well be on its way to establishing a following in Lexington for such original and invigorating music. Let’s hope so.

in performance: brantley gilbert/aaron lewis/josh phillips

Brantley Gilbert performing last night at Rupp Arena. Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Within the first few bars of the show-opening “My Kinda Party,” Brantley Gilbert placed all of his performance cards squarely in view of the 5,550 fans he pulled into Rupp Arena last night.

On the upside, his stage demeanor seemed energetic, good natured and immensely audience friendly – especially the latter, as those he happily slapped hands with along a walkway that ran down the arena floor can attest to.

Also in the plus column was a knowing sense of the contemporary country market that has made Gilbert a significant star over the past decade. That meant an efficiently staged show with the usual Spinal Tap-ish pyrotechnics, video screens and, most of all, an impressively flexible band whose role in fleshing out the variety of styles that gradually unraveled during the 90 minute set – the hip-hop cool of “Dirt Road Anthem,” the metal-esque crunch of “It’s About to Get Dirty” and radio-friendly country-pop of “More Than Miles” – proved continually pivotal.

The takeaway from last night’s concert that was more disconcerting was how weak a vocalist Gilbert was. Maybe he was ill. Maybe it was spring allergies. But from the onset of the show, Gilbert’s singing was a coarse, internalized mumble. He would bark out occasional exclamations to trigger audience involvement, but there was little within initial electric party pieces like “Country Must Be Country Wide” and “My Baby’s Guns N’ Roses” to suggest any kind of sustained vocal drive.

When the pace chilled and the volume settled for tunes like “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” and brief acoustic revisions of “Them Boys” and “My Kind of Crazy,” a modest level of fluidity and detail was detectable in the singing. On more discernable crowd favorites, though – “Small Town Throwdown,” for instance – the audience took over some of the vocal load.

This may have indeed been his kind of party, but Gilbert’s surprisingly lax vocal command definitely took the fire out of the celebration.

That wasn’t the only curiosity to the evening. Preceding Gilbert was an hour-long, chain smoking set by Staind vocalist Aaron Lewis. That’s the right, the same Aaron Lewis who powered such post-grunge anthems as “Right Here” and “It’s Been Awhile,” both of which he played. But Lewis wasn’t as much of a fish-out-of-water artist last night as one might suppose. His country material often revealed serious honky tonk volition as well as subtle but determined narrative digs, all of which were on display in an industry swipe called “That Ain’t Country.” The set-opening “Country Boy,” on the other hand, was all dark, swampy contemplation akin to the late ‘70s records of Hank Williams, Jr.

Sure, there was requisite jingoistic plundering and pandering (Lewis began his set by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance), but for the most part, there was an uncompromising solemnity and soulfulness to his performance that was quite arresting.

The evening began with a 20 minute solo acoustic set by North Carolina newcomer Josh Phillips. The singer racked up bonus points for playing without a band in an arena setting, but little was offered to distinguish his songs from the same thematic blather that permeates country radio today. When you have to turn your show-opening song – in this case, “Tonight Ain’t the Day” into a medley with a cover of “Highway to Hell,” you’re not exactly displaying unshakeable confidence in your work.

in performance: eagles

Joe Walsh performing with the Eagles last night at Rupp Arena. Herald-Leader staff photo by Alex Slitz.

Anyone curious about how in tune a retooled Eagles lineup would be with the times had their understandable concerns settled within the opening moments of the band’s very inviting 2 ½ hour concert last night at Rupp Arena.

With zero fanfare, a six member team – the lone original, the two mainstay members, a pair of new recruits and a key auxiliary player – lined up across the front of the stage to sing “Seven Bridges Road,” the Steve Young tune that was exclusive to the 1980 album “Eagles Live,” a record many assumed would serve as the band’s swansong work.

As the performance progressed, the five principle members would juggle lead vocal duties. Here, however, all were one – a resilient, harmonic front line of age, youth and no small level of musical acumen. As the voices were raised, the results sounded more like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young than the Southern California country-rock hybrid the Eagles claimed ownership of during the ‘70s. For a band used to the higher reaches of mega-stardom, this was an effectively subtle, even unassuming opening.

Much of the first half of the single-set, 27 song performance was spent establishing the identities of the new members and fortifying the legacies of the returning vets. Curiously, it was Joe Walsh who spoke to the crowd of 11,000 first (with a typically aloof “Good morning”) before introducing Deacon Frey, son of the late Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey. The young vocalist quickly took the reins of “Take It Easy” by doing just that. His delivery, though distinctly different than that of his father, was confident, convincing and, as was much of the entire concert, refreshingly unforced. The younger Frey’s delivery later in the show of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” though, reflected an almost ghostly similarity to his father’s singing.

The other “new guy” was Vince Gill, the veteran country guitarist, vocalist and (thanks to a brief stay during his bluegrass days of the ‘70s) former Lexingtonian. Gill took to the Eagles catalog – specifically, other songs originally sung by father Frey – with maximum ease, although his still potent high-tenor voice had more in common with band bassist Timothy B. Schmit’s singing. Gill took assured but respectful ownership of everything from the rocking “Heartache Tonight” to the surprise inclusion of Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55” (a tune cut for what arguably remains the Eagles’ best album, 1974’s “On the Border”). But the stunner was his treatment of “Take It to the Limit,” the regal lament co-written and sung by original Eagles bassist Randy Meisner but appropriated after his departure from the band by the elder Frey. Gill’s version, aided by choral-like harmonies from the other players, was a singular highlight of the performance.

Schmit, seated for the duration of the show with a booted right foot elevated on a platform due to a hotel room fall, was the only member whose singing revealed some wear, especially during a frail sounding “I Can’t Tell You Why.” His later delivery of the “Hell Freezes Over” single “Love Will Keep Us Alive” sounded richer.

Walsh, ever the guitar dynamo, elevated the energy level several notches whenever he took the spotlight, from vintage James Gang fare (a dynamic “Walk Away” bolstered by a five man horn section), solo career hits (the still haplessly baffoon-ish “Life’s Been Good”) and perhaps his best known Eagles tune, the darkly hopeful “In the City.” Walsh drove much of the performance simply a guitarist, whether through his own slide solos or healthy sparring with Steuart Smith, a touring member of the Eagles since 2001 and a major front line presence last night on guitar and harmonies.

That left Don Henley, the last of the original Eagles, who appeared visibly at ease with all manners of business conducted by his band’s realigned lineup. Watching him trade key harmonies with Frey and Gill revealed an almost patriarchal spirit, one that extended into the music itself. At 70 (the same age as Walsh and Schmit), his vocals revealed impressive clarity and range, from the ringing falsetto produced for “One of These Nights” to the rockish command that fortified “Victim of Love” to the quieter, folk-savvy turns within “Best of My Love.”

Nothing, though, beat the title tune to “Desperado,” the genre defining album that celebrates its 45th anniversary next week. Backed by a string quintet and the Eagles’ front line offensive, the song sounded as robustly weary and worn as it did in 1973. But there was also a sagely aspect to last night’s show-closing version, as if Henley was taking the song’s own advice to heart and letting the audience show a little love before the band called it quits. The song proved an absorbing survivor statement, one that spoke equally to the Eagles’ potent history as well as to the abundant vitality and purpose it still possesses today.

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in performance: gangstagrass

Gangstagrass, from left: Rench, Dolio the Sleuth, R-Son, Dan Whitener and Landry McMeans. Photo by Benjamin Smith

“I love it when you guys are down with the program,” remarked Gangstagrass guitarist and chieftain Rench as cultures deliriously clashed last night at Willie’s Locally Known.

The program, in this instance, was a musical mission that has been viewed over the past decade as a mash-up of bluegrass and hip-hop. The one hour, 45 minute performance revealed, however, that summation to be slightly inaccurate.

The very handmade musical fabric supplied by Rench, Dan Whitener and Landry McMeans on acoustic guitar, banjo and dobro respectively was more reflective of pre-bluegrass country music, especially works that generously emphasized their Appalachian ancestry, than what we have come to accept as bluegrass. Tempos were rougher, darker and slower than the string music brought forth in the post-Bill Monroe age. The approach could have almost been accepted as folk were it not for the looped beats that continually grooved under the tunes, from the show opening “I Go Hard” to the closing cover of the roots-music staple “Darlin’Cory (Dig a Hole in the Meadow)”.

That set-up made it easier to emcees R-Son and Dolio the Sleuth to bring the hip hop element to the evening. While deciphering their rhymes was often difficult given the show’s muddy sound mix, what resulted were songs where the three instrumentalists established the music’s traditionally minded accents through narratives the emcees would then mirror with more contemporary slants. Even the most familiar fare, such as “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” was presented with a wild duality, interspersing vintage verses sung by the instrumentalists with modern rhymes based off those words by the emcees. The formula didn’t shift dramatically for original fare, either, like “Bound to Ride,” “Keep Talking” and the new “Nowhere to Run.”

The most elaborate example of this cross-generational song swapping came when Gangstagrass let its popular “Justified’ theme song “Long Hard Times to Come” bleed into a vigorous update of “Hard Times Come Again No More,” the folk-blues affirmation penned by Stephen Foster. The two songs, bolstered by McMeans’ amplified dobro runs that mimicked electric slide guitar, the emcees’ tireless performance drive and the unwavering confidence the full band displayed in making such disparate styles sound natural and unified showed how Gangstagrass was getting with its own program just as readily as its audience was.

in performance: california guitar trio

California Guitar Trio: Hideyo Moriya, Paul Richards and Bert Lams.

To recognize the scholarly technique and stylistic dexterity of the California Guitar Trio when appraising one of its concerts isn’t exactly detective work. The ensemble has stressed both traits with unassuming ease throughout its 27 year history, so much so that such a design has allowed the music it fashions for three acoustic guitars to remain both accessible and adventurous. In short, the game plan has long been standard operating procedure. The music and musicianship within it, however, remains anything but.

The CGT’s annual visit to the Kentucky Coffeetree Café last night in Frankfort, one of the most intimate venues the group plays on a regular basis, offered an especially well-rounded repertoire that embraced the familiar but emphasized the new.

The four selections that opened the 90 minute performance made for a refresher course of the band: a faithful cover of “Classical Gas,” the surf staple “Walk Don’t Run,” the Argentine folk-inspired original “Chacarera” and the slide blues-meet-Western mash-up “Train to Lamy Suite.” Collectively, all have made frequent rounds in CGT shows through the years. Last night, though, they provided a crash course in the textures, techniques and sheer stylistic cunning the band was capable of. For all their familiarity to CGT die-hards, the tunes all sounded fresh and immediate.

There were also less obvious entries, like the beautiful “Euphoria,” a relatively recent entry from CGT member Paul Richards that revolved around a light, spacious group melody that quickly dived into deeper, layered colors. While not exactly an obscurity, Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” returned after an extended absence from the CGT repertoire, but still boasted a richly percussive drive.

It was also a blast to hear two career-spanning originals by fellow CGT co-founder Hideyo Moriya played back to back – 1993’s “Kan-Non Power” (which strongly summoned the influence of group mentor Robert Fripp both in its percolating arpeggios and the long, sustained mock-electric sounds Richards created with pedal effects) and “Komorebi” (the title tune to the CGT’s 2017 album, which sported a considerably lighter, more openly atmospheric makeup).

Four new entries were also added to the CGT catalog last night – a beautifully fragile arrangement of Radiohead’s “Daydreaming” by the late Collin Landinguin, a jubilant take on the Ventures’ surf classic “Diamond Head,” a loose but extremely fun stab at the Beatles’ “Get Back” and a wonderfully textured work by Buenos Aires guitarist Alex Anthony Faide entitled “Where It Goes, We Go.”

Then it was back to CGT essentials to close the show with guitarist Bert Lams helping co-pilot the mix of cinematic ambience and drama within “Punta Patri” and an encore cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” that underscored the sense of combustible fun that still sits at the heart of the trio’s immensely inventive and inviting music.

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