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The New Cool: Amendola Vs Blades, fighting the battle of the groove

Used with the generous permission of the artists.
Scott Amendola (left) drums with keys player Wil Blades (right) and friends perform in Seattle Wednesday.

Earshot's 2019 Jazz Festival wraps up with a double bang Wednesday, Nov. 6. Chick Corea will be performing the Gershwin classic "Rhapsody in Blue" with the Seattle Syphony Orchestra at Benaroya Hall. For New Cool fans, the action is across the street with drummer Scott Amendola matching wits and grooves with keyboard whiz Wil Blades asAmendola Vs Blades at The Triple Door.

Amendola Vs Blades began their collaborations in the Bay Area around 2006, eventually resulting in their cleverly titled debut album, Greatest Hits in 2016. Blades' talent for melody, groove and smart bass work with his left hand is a perfect match for Amendola's in-and-out-of-the-pocket drumming style. You've heard Blades in similar territory on the New Cool with drummer Billy Martin on their 2012 album Shimmy.

Now, the pair have released a new album and spiked their sound with four guest musicians. Three of those will be joining Amendola and Blades at The Triple Door on Wednesday.

Everybody Wins features three duo songs. I'm most taken with the New Orleans groove of their Professor Longhair nod "Fess Up (Before Ya Mess Up)," which you'll hear on KNKX Saturday afternoon.

Seattle's Dark Lord of the Sax, Skerik lends his saxophonics and electronics to the proceedings. I saw him playing with Blades, John Medeski, Robert Walter and others in New Orleans a couple years ago. The album also includes guitarist Jeff Parker, part of Blades' trio on his great album Field Notes from 2014. He first met Amendola at Berklee College of Music in the late '80s. Legendary Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista has worked with Amendola in the Nels Cline Singers, headed by the Wilco guitarist. Rob Burger of the Tin Hat Trio adds some keyboard flourishes to a song as well, he's a pal of the duo in the San Francisco area since the mid-90s.

The grooves are varied on Everybody Wins, often floating into psychedelia as on the tempo break in "Cyroette" and the opening of "Metropolitan Hustle." Funk is the cornerstone, anchoring the most adventurous passages to the co-leaders' entrancing rhythmic variations. "Hambela" is a stone cold funk ride that collapses in on itself.

With these exciting guests, we never lose sight of who's in charge here. Amendola Vs Blades have formed a remarkable musical partnership over 13 years. “The ‘Vs.’ is about how we mess with each other,” says Amendola. “It’s one fun part of our personal connection. Our friendship. We take the art of what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Gotta have fun, mess with each other . . . and keep improvising!”

Wednesday night at The Triple Door, the duo will be joined by Skerik, Parker and Baptista. Whether you're in the audience with me for this show, or across the street to check out Chick and the Symphony, it's a fittlingly epic ending to another fabulous Earshot Jazz Festival. Kudos to all!

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.