Teddy Kumpel's tweaked virtuosity
Kevin Wonders of the Squirrel music review
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of catching Teddy Kumpel’s trio NOME SANE? At The Bitter End in NYC. It was Teddy’s birthday so the mood was high and these guys delivered in spades.
Teddy Kumpel is a well known, highly respected guitar wizard from Port Jefferson, LI which immediately makes him a homeboy, being from Long Island myself. I won’t belabor the issue or put a bunch of famous names in parentheses to give the man cred. All you have to do is look him up and you’ll get the pedigree but I suggest you grab a piece of the group’s latest release Kevin Wonders of the Squirrel, and give it a spin.
All original music and one inspired cover are on the menu and there’s a treat on every single track. Impeccably realized strangeness full of chops and humor runs through the entire experience with laugh out loud harmonic and melodic twists. Kumpel shows how truly masterful he is at weaving melodies never falling into displays or cliches unless they are ironically lined up against the wall and massacred. What a delight.
Can we talk about touch? Teddy has been at it a long time; so relaxed and comfortable leading an elephant around the shop with a feather. Beautifully expressive whammy touches that never stray into wank remind me of Jeff Beck. Kumpel’s dynamic control is from full bloom fusillades of grey foam noise to delicate clean tings that drift around the room spelling unexpected Lydian colors and hidden chutes into the dark rooms of Nome Same?’s funhouse.
Bob Stander plays old school bass with a sound reminiscent of the best of the best when an SVT, Traynor or a Sunn Coloseum was in the basement. A charging and authoritative presence belies the fact that you can’t stop laughing at his antics. The voiceovers on Nome Sane?’s recording are weird AF, kinda like the best Firesign Theater bits, Cheech and Chong, Zappa, Beefhart, or Tom Waits. The live show is bent in the direction of self-effacing lunacy but don’t kid yourself, there’s a rabid intelligence behind the curtain and when it’s time to shred and soar Nome Sane? delivers in a shockingly good way. Unaffected and unique, there’s no science project math jazz here, no beer commercial shred-spooge and there’s nothing shy or polite in their bones. What a relief!
The drums expertly commanded by Matt Miller are big, bombastic and booming without ever being showy. Miller’s groove is fat when it’s time to rock, finessed and lilting in the best Jamaican style and downright crushing in all kinds of over the bar line phrases and compound time signatures. Always organic and solid as a rock, the duo of Miller and Stander is a dream machine to any soloist or general space traveler. Teddy Kumpel deserves this kind of support but in all honestly it’s readily apparent that these goats are old homies who stand equally in the music and in their collective world view.
In a time where conformity equals success, Nome Sane? serves up the antidote to being fed a load of horseshit passing for music. Categories and silos have nothing to do with imagination. These guys are living proof that the sound in your head is the only sound worth making.