To be honest, I’m surprised it took me five or so columns of Postcards From Page Side to write about not only one of my personal favorite musicians, but a man whose dedication to his craft is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. A true “musician’s musician,” as he’s been called, “an unknown legend” as a CNN interview dubbed him, and a master of his plethora of axes and student of music itself, it’s no wonder why even Jerry Garcia once dubbed him one of his favorite unknown guitar players, opening the eyes and ears of a different audience to the world that is STEVE KIMOCK.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Kimock a few times over the years, and in different settings such as Jam Cruise, or over a glass of red wine backstage – which much like his playing, makes you appreciate patience and maturity to gain the full effect. I’ve also worked for him for HeadCount as his Artist Rep, and having done other small work for his camp and led street team efforts. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is the man loves to talk not only music, but about his gear and the nuiances and intricacies of improvisation – something that he is clearly a pioneer of (he’s been playing for 40+ years, maybe more), and makes sound so effortless.
Besides technical efficiency, which is almost anti-rock star in methodology, Kimock takes pride in tone and draws and blends together on all sorts of genres from jazz, to middle eastern, to rock and everything in between. He has played with some “main” bands over the years, most notably Zero, KVHW, was part of the legendary Phil & Friends lineup in ’99 (and beyond for a spell), a few incarnations of The Steve Kimock Band and most recently Praang and Crazy Engine.
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Whatever you’ve heard about Kimock, or if you know nothing at all and this column is introducing you to him (you can thank me later) one thing is clear: the man is superb in all he does. He’s simple, yet complex and you can see and hear each musical thought develop not only from his style and grace, but with his closed-eyes, facial expressions, as he seemingly lives and breathes with each note.
I also think the reason I am so drawn and intrigued to the playing of Kimock is the fact that he exudes such patience – something I so dearly lack in most aspects of my hectic, New York City life. His music often balances me out in a way that no other musician ever has (and probably never will, at least to the same extent). It’s spiritual, mystic, religious and fucking rocking all at the same time.
If you’ve caught any Kimock related show (he is also notorious for sitting in with just about everyone), you will notice that he travels with a vast array of guitars. He can make any stringed instrument hum in a way that is hard to describe, and I won’t even try, so I simply invite you to sit back, kick your shoes off and immerse yourself in some of Kimock’s finest work over the years…
This first song, Cole’s Law, is quite simply my favorite tune to hear Kimock open a show with. It usually is accompanied by Tangled Hangers for a perfect example of clashing styles and juxtaposition that again, flow seamlessly together.
The next video is quite possibly THE quintessential tune for most Kimock fans, It’s Up To You. Played in various bands, this one stands up in any capacity and features some delicious improv hear in a version by KVHW.
A real treat, this next one speaks for itself, as Kimock crafts a goosebump inducing cover of Stella Blue…
Here’s a glimpse of another one of my favorite tunes of Kimock’s: Tongue-N-Groove. This version (in two parts) is from 12.31.99 with Zero and features Kimock effortlessly switching from standard six-string to lap steel for the song’s fiery conclusion. Also of note is the work by Martin Fierro on sax, who is probably best recognized for his work with Jerry and Garcia and Legion of Mary. (I solemnly vow to feature a column on him in the future, as Fierro is a musical author who I also feel deserves accolades of his own and exuded style and a lively sense of humor before his passing in 2008).
I also highly recommend if you like what you’ve heard so far that you go a step further and download this SKB show, in which he toured with the true powerhouse lineup of Reed Mathis on bass, Robert Walter on keys and quite possibly one of the most insane drummers I’ve ever seen, Rodney Holmes (he could warrant a column on himself – also someone to check out). That lineup was super because they pushed Kimock to even further limits, with simply electric results. Truly a mind-blowing lineup that I;ve always wished Steve would get back together at some point in time.
- Steve Kimock Band: 2005-10-01
Another aspect of the world of Kimock that I must mention is the master recordings and mixings of Charlie Miller (of Grateful Dead lore), for without him, there wouldn’t be such an abundance of arguably the best recordings out there of any live performances, by any artist. Miller is a true Picasso in his own right, which makes him a natural fit with Kimock. Check out the above recording (and about a zillion others) to see what I’m talking about.
In the end, music and the joy it brings is also about turning others onto some great music. Kimock will continue to be that artist that I continue to lobby for and spread his gospel. Although, as you can see from the above examples, he seems to be doing that just fine on his own.