Wil Blades & Scott Amendola conjure various sonic deities though only a duo. For the past 10 years, their live shows have been generating a buzz around the San Francisco Bay Area. The two got their start as a group when Scott had the vision of performing Duke Ellington’s “Far East Suite” in duo with Wil. While quite a daunting task translating a suite (originally written for a big band) into duo, the Hammond Organ had previously been used in the 1940’s & 1950’s to emulate the sound of big bands. With Wil’s knowledge of this tradition and Scott’s desire to push boundaries, they were able to pull it off in an explorative, yet cohesive manner. The duo continues to perform pieces from the Ellington suite, while also developing their original material. Their live performances are fun and playful, yet deeply musical. They can cover everything from Avant Garde to Funk, Bebop to Rock, sometimes all within one song, even. In June 2015, at Duende in Oakland, CA, they set up shop for two nights and recorded in front of a live audience. The resulting release, entitled “Greatest Hits”, is now out on SAZi records. As people now have learned, Wil Blades is hands down one of the essential torchbearers for the Hammond B-3 organ-jazz tradition, not to mention as tasty as they come on Clavinet. Scott Amendola is one of the rare drummers who’s pure groove in the pocket, but somehow simultaneously & delightfully angular and skewed in the very same moment. Add guitarist Jeff Parker of Tortoise, percussion wizard Cyro Baptista, saxophonics visionary Skerik and the ever cinematic Rob Burger to the mix and you have a record that reveals itself in new and explosively colorful ways with each listen! That is some of what happens on the 2019 Royal Potato Family release, “AMENDOLA VS. BLADES :: Everybody Wins”. The way to get to know the sounds and how the interact best with you is to go try it out when they are coming into town to play.
I had the pleasure of spending some time with Scott & Wil ahead of the September 22nd event at the North Street Cabaret here in Madison, and this event will feature the one and only spellbinding percussionist, Mr. Cyro Baptista. We get into the duo as a being while adding to the discussion the extra special layer Cyro adds to the mix of a live performance, not only for them as the players, but for those in the listening of the room as well. We talk about collaborations and the 2019 release, ‘Everybody Wins’ that they are actually now finally getting to go out and tour on. During that portion of the chat, we do learn that there is and will be new music in the making as well, which is always exciting to learn about. Wil and I briefly talk of our mutual pal, Mr. Melvin Sparks and we find out what & why the two guys are listening these days. Based on this conversation, it is easy for me to see why these cats can get into the explorations of sound toGether, while remember the playfulness of the people making it and the doors it opens for others.