Kneebody blend rhythmic muscularity and lyric tenderness on their new album Anti-Hero | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Kneebody blend rhythmic muscularity and lyric tenderness on their new album Anti-Hero

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Muscular quintet Kneebody have spent more than a decade pushing against the limitations of jazz, forging an instrumental approach distinguished by high-level improvisation and a bruising ensemble attack. The band’s strong new album Anti-Hero (Motema) builds on that tradition: it’s essentially jazz-rock fusion, though their sound underlines the uselessness of that coinage. Drummer Nate Wood, electric bassist Kaveh Rastegar, and keyboardist Adam Benjamin combine to create huge, swaggering grooves, while front-line melodies are deftly shaped by the powerful alloy of trumpeter Shane Endsley and saxophonist Ben Wendel. On the one hand Kneebody are about as subtle as an anvil here—the beats are punishing, the volume high, and the timbre viscous—but there’s also impressive agility on display. The horn players unleash slaloming bebop lines to open “Drum Battle,” an earlier version of which appeared on the group’s impressive collaboration with electronic music producer Daedelus; later the whole band tamp down their energy in a tender, sorrowful salute to prodigious keyboardist and composer Austin Peralta, who died in 2012 at the age of 22. But the most consistent pleasure Kneebody offer is the way they operate as a single organism, braiding strength and lyricism without being constrained by any single tradition.   v

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