Kimock & Friends: review and photos

from Jambase

If you thought last year was a once in a lifetime chance to catch a Steve Kimock led supergroup honoring the R&B roots and inspiration of the late, great Jerry Garcia, hopefully you caught one of the recent shows that took place at Mill Valley’s Sweetwater Music Hall. As much as last year’s shows were acclaimed by many, from what was offered last Friday night, the band has clearly not only built on their catalogue of offerings, they actually sound like they’re a band out on tour.


An affinity for where the band draws its inspiration from is important to fully grasp where the group is coming from. However, you need only enjoy high quality improvisational music to be inspired by this truly special crew. While the songs played are bonafide classics, in essence they seem to act as a mere springboard for exploring realms of music seldom attained by even the strongest of musicians.

It goes without saying that Steve Kimock is a legend. Between all his various projects over the years, Kimock has proven that he can do more than simply slay with the best of them. But even in 2014, watching him effortlessly hit notes, move through chord progressions and take the current song/jam at hand to previously untouched places is uncanny. Some might argue that his connection to bassist Bobby Vega is the key ingredient of bringing out the best in Kimock. That’s not to take any ounce of anything away from Kimock, it’s more of an acknowledgement for how nasty of a bass player Vega is, and how special their relationship is together. Throw keyboardist Jeff Chimenti into the mix and there you have three of tightest musicians that can possibly share a stage. In fact, Chimenti offered some of the most salient improvisation over the course of the two immaculately played sets last Friday night.


Driving this special band on drums is none other than Jerry Garcia’s original Keystone collaborator, Bill Vitt. Joined by John Morgan Kimock on drums, this duo provides a percussive force for the strings and keys to build off of regardless of what song or jam is taking place. Dan Lebowitz is the voice of the band, and even though it’s clear who the main guitarist is, if you can find a recording and listen back to this show, “Lebo” and his strumming is guaranteed to impress you on a number of tunes.

Friday’s show also saw two special guests brought into the mix at the intimate Sweetwater venue. In the second set Jason Crosby joined in on the keys for “Bertha,” while at the end of the first set former Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann surprised many in attendance by taking John Morgan Kimock’s place for a memorable, instrumental take on “Help on the Way”> “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower.”


All night the energy in the Sweetwater was top-notch. Each song was play with passion, but again, it was the extended takes on these timeless songs that really jumped out the most. “Slipknot” was dark, dirty and bursting with groove. “Mystery Train” was so deep and so rocking that even Captain Trips would have smiled. By the end of the night many fans in attendance were overheard speaking in a questioning tone, wondering why this band isn’t actually on a bar/theatre tour, at least across the West Coast, since they sounded so melodic, so tight, and seemed to be having such a good time creating masterful music. The good news is the band will set sail on Jam Cruise 13, on January 6-11 for a “Jam Cruise Tribute to Jerry Garcia.” So this is thankfully not the last we’ll hear from the group, as there are a bunch of lucky show goers who are in for one heck of a treat. Perhaps more shows are not too far off for this supergroup in the future? Maybe after Jam Cruise a decision on that will be made, and for all the music lovers out there that are looking for nothing more than an honest jam, let’s hope that 2015 has something in store for this fine group of artists.

Set One: Money Honey, Expressway (To Your Heart), Soul Roach, It’s Too Late (She’s Gone), Help On The Way* > Slipknot!* > Franklin’s Tower* (w/audience singing “Roll Away, The Dew”)

Set Two: He Ain’t Give You None, Merle’s Tune, Bertha (w/Jason Crosby joining Jeff Chimenti on keys), Many Rivers To Cross, Mystery Train, The Harder They Come