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Kneebody: Live at Le Crescent (Edition)

A review of the quartet's album recorded live in France in 2019

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Kneebody: Live at Le Crescent (Edition)
The cover of Live at Le Crescent by Kneebody

Recorded in summer 2019 in France, after the release of their album Chapters, Kneebody’s Live at Le Crescent follows 11 albums of jazz/hip-hop/rock frolics sweetened, cajoled, and explored through the band’s unique New York-to-L.A. lens. Featuring the long-term lineup of Ben Wendel on saxophone and effects, Shane Endsley on trumpet and effects, Adam Benjamin on keyboards, and Nate Wood on his unique drums’n’bass cyber-meld, Live at Le Crescent is mostly made up of previously recorded material—and grooves like a midnight train in mayhem.

One of Kneebody’s peculiar skills is sounding like a larger ensemble, the quartet often recreating the sound of a small orchestra via multiple effects and Wood’s gargantuan skill set (he also mixed and mastered the album). Live at Le Crescent is groove-heavy, solo-heavy, improvisation-heavy, and super-satisfying.

Kneebody classic “Spectra” kicks off with Wendel’s torrid saxophone driving the band to frenzied heights; Adam Benjamin’s Rhodes piano is the comfort food that keeps the music floating; Wood’s hyperactive, time-chopping drum solo dissects the beat like a mad chef. “Drum Battle” is all odd corners and funny slides, like two tap dancers’ shoelaces intertwined. The song’s bulging beat supports a ragged New Orleans horn message, which is further warped by skittish delays, loop-like rhythms, and staggered melodies. Near the song’s midpoint, Kneebody hits harder terrain, signaled by the sound of Wood’s massive open bass drum. “Just to Be” is doleful and woozy, a hard morning after. “The Non-Profit Prince of Lexington” wakes slowly, twinkling keyboards and punch-drunk horns like Frankenstein recalling haunted dreams, while “Uprising” pulps crippled robot beats before busting into a hard-charging, Broadway-worthy revue sendup.

Live at the Crescent is the sound of Kneebody busting a gut—all eight knees intact.

Learn more about Live at Le Crescent at Amazon!

Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.