I like bands. I like the idea of a bunch of dudes traveling the country together in a van playing music. These dudes sound only like themselves, and that sound, forged over years of playing in loud, sweaty clubs, is what keeps us all coming back. Record after record, tour after tour.
These folkloric musical enterprises are not nearly as present in the contemporary jazz world as they seem to be in some other musics. I’m sure there are many thousands of words to be written on exactly why this is, but the point of this essay is to draw attention to one very powerful “band of dudes” in today’s jazz community: Kneebody.
Formed in 2001 by five students at the Eastman School of Music, Kneebody has developed a sound that will challenge your perceptions of what is possible with the modern jazz quintet. Complex rhythmic ideas lay the framework for soaring melodies. The band works as one unit, propelling us through dense sonic landscapes built on a foundation of complex rhythmic and melodic ideas.
The musicians—saxophonist Ben Wendel, trumpeter Shane Endsley, pianist Adam Benjamin, bassist Kaveh Rastegar, and drummer Nate Wood—have released nine albums to date, the most recent of which, The Line, marks their major label debut with Concord Records.
Each member of Kneebody is an accomplished leader in his own right, and maybe that’s why these dudes work so well together. Together, they can do anything. They can take any musical idea and make it sound like Kneebody. It’s a beautiful thing, and it certainly keeps me coming back.