Sunday, December 29, 2013

Faces of the Artists Quarter #27

Dave King (with the Trio, CD release 2012)

© Andrea Canter

Dave King (2012)
Even if you only consider the bands he brings into the Artists Quarter, it's hard to keep track of Dave King and his ensembles. A regular face since the mid-90s, Dave has been instrumental (pun intended) in birthing some of the area's most exciting bands, and the AQ has served as the delivery room. No, the Bad Plus did not begin at the Dakota, where they have played an annual holiday gig for many years - the world renowned trio (with King, Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson) first performed at the Artists Quarter in 2000. Happy Apple (King, Mike Lewis, Erik Fratzke) found its audience in 1996 "when Kenny Horst took a chance on some young attitude-laden doofs named Happy Apple and gave us the holy grail at the time – a Wednesday night at the AQ!!!" as King related in his commentary for Bebopified.

The Bad Plus and Happy Apple might be Dave's highest profile (and longest-running) gigs, but there's lots more. On hiatus now, another AQ-spawned trio, dubbed FKG after its members (Scott Fultz, Dave King, Dean Granros), garned a faithful following over the past decade-plus; the rising star ensemble Dave King Trucking Company debuted at the Walker Art Center about four years ago but has performed steadily at the AQ ever since with King, Fratzke, Brandon Wozniak and Adam Linz on local gigs (adding New Yorker Chris Speed on tour and recordings). More recently, Dave pulled together pals Bill Carrothers and Billy Peterson for a sublime recording session focusing on - aaagh! - standards! The Dave King Trio hit the AQ over the past year. And each time Dave is on stage, it's not just a music performance  - it's a stand-up comedy act, Dave's often stream-of-conscious commentary filling (sometimes large) spaces between tunes and leaving most of us scratching our heads between laughs. The AQ version of Saturday Night Live.

Dave was part of one of my most memorable weekends at the Artists Quarter, in late 2003. Siamese Fighting Fish (a trio led by Dean Granros with Dave and Anthony Cox) was booked but Dean had a family emergency. Cox quickly contacted pianist Craig Taborn, in town for the holidays, and a new trio emerged, dubbed Garcia. It turned out to be a one-off, unfortunate given the soar of the music and the roar of the crowd. I wrote my first-ever music review that weekend, which became my first contribution to Jazz Police. And of the drummer, I wrote:

"Dave King has no boundaries in either the percussive elements he uses (including toddler toys) or the gymnastics with which he assembles and dismantles those elements in creating an endless palette of sound.  His cymbals are not crash and ride, but crash and burn."

A decade later, I wouldn't change a single word.

Sometimes Dave's monologues became duo-tones - as with Erik Fratzke (2010)