Wow! Hippie Tendencies Show Amazing

Yep, I showed up 1000 miles from home for a show. How crazy is that?

Now, I know there are plenty of folks following bands about, going to shows on a regular basis. I know some of you!

Being a musician, I tend to save my money for my next album (yes! I am working on one. More later) rather than gallivanting off to exotic locales for shows. And, I know, Hippie Tendencies is not Rat Dog – Yet! I don’t think a swirl of folks are following them from town to town, yet.

Still, there I was, Saturday night at the Soiled Dove, somewhere near Denver (I dunno) eager to see if the Hippie Tendencies show lives up to the recorded work.

For me, studio recording is a different art form than a live show. These are consumed rather differently (even though both forms contain audio music). Maybe soon I’ll post about these differences? Let me just say that groups are sometimes better in one form than the other, agreed?

Well, I want to tell you all: go see and hear Hippie Tendencies. It’s that simple.

These folks are putting out a world class show. Period. End of story.

Great musicianship, of course. (I’ve already written about their abilities.

But you’ve just got to see these folks work together. The sum of the parts is far greater than the whole.

Right up front, Lisa Marie Simmons gives focus to the work.

She’s got that thing from which it’s very hard to look away – whatever that is. Charming, fully engaged, giving everything and a little more. When I worked with Bo Diddley, he had it. 15 seconds on stage and the crowd is glued to his every move, his every nuance. Chuck Berry’s** got it, yep – we all know that. Lisa, though certainly not playing early rock, has got it.

I experienced her as a bit pixie-ish: having fun with us, with the music, with the band, us all being there together. There’s a lightness to her on stage presence, an ease that also works very well with the meanings in the songs. Even when delivering a strong message, I still have the sense of compassion coupled with her righteous anger (check out “Shame” or “Impossible”).

And, she can sing, too, nuanced singing, wide expression to deliver the story behind the lyric. She has clearly worked to understand the corners of her particular instrument.

But this wouldn’t be enough to get into Brook’s “world class” category. Lisa could be working us and the show could still not fully click. The musicians also deliver to the rich experience as a unit. While they work very hard, they also exude great pleasure in the work.

Massimo Saviola knows the difference between a richly textured slap line, floating to let the mood work and deliver the lyric, walking along to let the song (and the drummer) open up. And he also has a little fun with us. One of his solos mostly consisted of nothing more than dropping his low string stepwise to a low fifth off the bottom of the typical bass tuning. Very clever, simple, effective, crowd pleasing. Great trick (can I steal it, Massimo?) It’s not that he has to rely on this sort of thing, by why over do it? I got a great sense of appropriateness and economy from his playing.

Massimo leaves a lot of the complex density to drummer Cesare Valbusa. Dare I compare this aspect of his playing to the late Steve Gadd? There’s a density in Cesare’s playing that lends a bigness to the sound. But Cesare doesn’t over do it, because that wouldn’t allow the music to breathe. I especially liked the way he uses his hands rather than mallets on the cymbals, and of course, I’ll mention it again: the brushes work.

Marco Cremaschini does a lot of the composition and arranging. But when I chatted with him, he told me that they all contribute and then he tries to put a unity into the work. That seems a great way of working both collectively and also detailing and polishing. However they’re composed, the melodies are clever, never static, singable, but also surprising, the chord changes interesting, the feels diverse while still maintaining some cohesion overall.

Marco’s soloing is top notch jazz. I’m sure he can also work in any straight ahead or fusion setting as he chooses. Yes, he’s got “the chops”.

The detail that stood out to me especially was the arranging. Ya gotta have good music to begin with, yes. On top of the music there must be an understanding about setting up a texture and then letting it develop over the course of the song. Hippie Tendencies as a unit are phenomenal in this regard – maybe their best attribute, that which takes the whole to a much greater sum?

Christian Codenotti on acoustic guitar, is a sound engineer by profession. The textures Christian creates are a very important part of what’s happening. He doesn’t just strum (though he can when it’s called for) or finger pick the usual chords. Nope. It’s the major and minor seconds right in the middle of the instrument that create those to-die-for textures. That’s detailing. It’s the shared lines with bass or keyboards that fill in and complement the lyric and the mood. Marco clearly undestands the difference between padding and percussive keyboard parts. Each have their place. Often you want one or the other, only sometimes, both.

The group was augmented by Lisa Bell’s lead guitarist, Bob Story. He’s a great player: jazz chops, blues chops, slide chops. Lots of fun there as well – he has a great sense of the difference between fills and solos. He never stepped on the arrangements, but took his time in the sun when it was appropriate.

And, of quite a few tunes, local, Lisa Bell***, added some pleasing background vocal texture, as well.

Oh, and during Marco’s extended keyboard solos, Cesare and Massimo were right there with him, finding the rhythms in his work, echoing or jumping in to augment. That’s “playing together”. To me, that’s the essence of great jazz (or any improvised music).

Yep, this is a group to watch, I think. Go see them. I did. I love the show. I think you might too?

And, once again, give the recording a listen.


** I mention these particular players because of course, I’ve played with them and know what happens in their presence.
***I hope to post later about Lisa Bell’s performance.

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