To the delight of Santa Cruzians, Steve Kimock and son John Morgan Kimock, along with longtime musical sparring partner Bobby Vega and vocalist Leslie Mendelson, performed at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. The new lineup, simply titled KIMOCK, is touring to support the new album, Last Danger of Frost. With over 4 decades of touring under his belt, Steve is no stranger to the stage and like he has done so many times before, he welcomed us into his world for the evening. His newest band, KIMOCK, did not merely perform music, they shared music with us. Together we broke the musical bread, sipped the wine of song from the same goblet, and our dessert plates overflowed…
The Kuumbwa is a seated venue so dancing is limited to the back of the room. Typically I would not be inclined to sit during a Kimock show but the new compositions are perfect for a relaxing night at the Jazz club. Seated. Steve seemed the think the same and the show began with him seated, an acoustic guitar on his lap. He asked permission from the audience to begin the show the same way he greets his guitar at home. He said he likes to take his time to “see where the notes are and how I’m feeling about them.” We were treated to a beautiful and pure lesson in improv by the master himself. Then the rest of the crew joined in and the gravity began to shift as it has a tendency to do around Steve, and we all began to feel just a bit lighter.
The first song, “Orson”, was a panoply of sound featuring recordings of Orson Welles intertwined with textured rhythms provided by John and Bobby while Kimock’s guitar danced provocatively with the piano. This was the first glimpse into what we had in store for the night and I was eager for more. Next they played “Careless Love”, the first song written together and I can see why they decided to continue writing…Leslie Mendelson is just beautiful on this song. A young Norah Jones kept coming to mind. While Bobby would never leave home without his trusty Fender bass, the “fonky biscuit” (as Vega is often warmly refered to) played acoustic bass for a part of the set, matching the mood and tone of Steve’s new explorations. Fans of electrified Kimock were not disappointed as he took the Fender and Cripe for a stroll through the club later on in the first set.
The second set started with a recording of Carl Sagan, apparently from a speech in Santa Cruz some time in the past. This juxtaposition of the past talking towards the future, with Steve and crew buckled in the present, liftoff was achieved, albeit a short flight. This was a more subdued band, not much fill and frill, just enough to get you to the edge of the seat… and the edge is where you stay, as alas, the Kuumbwa is a seated venue… We were soon treated to a Kimock standard, “Tongue and Groove” that was perfectly played. It was shorter than the normal groovy version but it spoke volumes in a short amount of time. The band then played “Life Of the Party” and upon finishing, I saw Steve had a funny look on his face. He began to talk about how all the instrumental songs were normally written with someone in mind. The “Life of the Party” was [Zero’s vocalist] Judge Murphy. And here is the cosmic part…as he was playing the song, he reached into his pocket to find a pouch of Judge’s ashes. Yes, Steve, that is f*%king strange. He then evoked Martin [Fierro] by telling a story about how when Martin didn’t approve of something, he would flick an invisible “spiritual” booger at them. Hence the inspiration for the next tune, “Fingernail Boogie”. Next up was another hauntingly beautiful song by Leslie Mendelson, “Beware of Darkness” that could most certainly become the most in-demand song in their repertoire.
To wrap up the night, we were treated to a Middle Eastern influenced song from the new album called “My Favorite Number.” The soundscapes created by the lilting guitar and droning piano made way for a perfect storm to end the night.