And then there were four: Kneebody settle into life as a quartet | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

And then there were four: Kneebody settle into life as a quartet 

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click to enlarge Kneebody

Kneebody

Robbie Suharlim

As far as album titles go, Kneebody’s Chapters is pretty damn on the nose. The record, which came out in October, is the instrumental avant-pop-jazz omnivores’ first full-length since they announced the departure of founding bassist Kaveh Rastegar last February, along with their transformation from a lean five-piece into an even leaner quartet. It’s the group’s only personnel change since they formed in 2001, after Rastegar, keyboardist Adam Benjamin, trumpeter Shane Endsley, and saxophonist Ben Wendel (who’d come together as students at Rochester’s prestigious Eastman School of Music) headed to Los Angeles and began gigging with drummer Nate Wood. Most of Chapters was recorded before Rastegar parted ways with the band, but if the three tracks where he doesn’t appear (as well as the material on May’s By Fire EP) are any indication, the new incarnation of Kneebody still packs a punch. Their sly, cerebral licks brim over into brash, anthemic, big-band-style unisons, and though these days Wood gamely covers bass as the band’s one-man rhythm section (the other members occasionally pitch in on percussion as needed), the results are as catchy and unpredictable as ever. Chapters mostly convenes collaborators from By Fire, including pianist Gerald Clayton and vocalists Michael Mayo and Becca Stevens, but for this local show the lineup will just be the four Kneebody members in all their freewheeling instrumental glory. In “The Non-Profit Prince of Lexington,” Endsley plays cosmic arabesques over ghostly syncopated pulses laid down by Benjamin and Wendel while Wood peppers the starscape with atmospheric cymbal hits. The message is clear: though one chapter is closing, a startling, brave new one is just beginning.   v

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