Sixteen years in and the genre-bending electric jazz collective Kneebody is stronger than ever. On the heels of their recent groundbreaking collaboration with electronic musician Daedelus, the band returned to the studio refreshed and armed with a slate of road-tested tunes for their ninth studio album. Kneebody made their Motéma Music debut on March 3 with the release of Anti-Hero, the pulsating result of that creative rebirth, featuring an assured set of churning backbeats and unrestrained exploration.
Kneebody’s sound is… explosive rock energy paralleled with high-level nuanced chamber ensemble playing, with highly wrought compositions that are balanced with adventurous no-holds-barred improvising. All “sounds-like” references can be set aside; this band has created a genre and style all its own.
Kneebody bassist Kaveh Rastegar thinks of their sound this way, “Personally, I think calling Kneebody “jazz” or “electric jazz” is fantastic because then we can move on from that hang up and play our music — and alter expectations of what ‘jazz’ is.”
Kneebody is keyboardist Adam Benjamin, trumpeter Shane Endsley, electric bassist Kaveh Rastegar, saxophonist Ben Wendel and drummer Nate Wood. The band has no leader or rather, each member is the leader; they’ve developed their own musical language, inventing a unique cueing system that allows them each to change the tempo, key, style, and more in an instant.
The quintet met in their late teens while at The Eastman School of Music and Cal Arts, became fast friends, and converged together as Kneebody amid the vibrant and eclectic music scene of Los Angeles in 2001. Since then, each band member has amassed an impressive list of credits and accomplishments over the years all while the band has continued to thrive and grow in reputation, solidifying a fan base around the world.
“We are a democratic, equally owned-and-operated band with shared leadership,” says Shane Endsley. “Everyone brings in music and everyone votes on everything. And it’s always been just the five of us.”
Kneebody draws upon influences spanning D’Angelo’s Voodoo to music by Elliot Smith, Bill Frisell, and Miles Davis. Their live shows are known for intense sonic landscapes of the Radiohead ilk, for the rhythmic bombast of a Squarepusher or Queens of the Stone Age show, and the harmonic depth and improvisational freedom experienced at a Brad Mehldau concert.