KAMANI Closes Out Six-Night Run with Dunedin Brewery Show
A very special six-night run of shows by KAMANI had its finale Sunday, November 15, at Dunedin Brewery in Dunedin, Florida. The collective began its run last Tuesday in Charleston before heading to Florida, playing Jacksonville, Jupiter, Winter Park, and Boca Raton before the final stop.
KAMANI is the collective put together for these shows with Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power), drums and vocals; Nigel Hall (Lettuce), keyboards and vocals; Kat Dyson (Prince, Cyndi Lauper), guitar and vocals; and Matt Lapham (Shak Nasti, Roosevelt Collier Trio), bass.
With a small stage area, Hall and keyboards were set up off the riser on the right, with Dyson and Lapham flanking Glaspie on the short five-inch riser. It was an intimate evening for the 30 patrons inside.
Normally, we would begin with the beginning, but the band members had a lot to say at the end of the show. Glaspie noted that they had just played six shows in six nights, all of them safely managed; she chastised other places: “See? It CAN be done!” (I’m paraphrasing.) Hall poured out his appreciation for all who came out to see them perform; this was his first time playing out in eight months! Dyson similarly lavished praise for this tour and the fans. Glaspie then acknowledged a gentlemen who had made all six shows, including that first show in Charleston, and she shouted out Shelly Smith, an amazing patron of our scene.
Back to the beginning. The band utilized the same setlist, with variations, throughout the run. Hall set up some percussion from his computer as Glaspie and Hall rapped about the current situation and how we’ve all been going through some joy and pain. With that, they launched into “Joy and Pain,” the Maze masterpiece. Hall channels Frankie Beverly so magnificently.
Hall pointed out that his voice was a bit the worse for wear. (Every performer and teacher can relate: there is no way to train your voice after a long layoff except to get out there and sing/speak.) He was demonstrating how gravelly it was, and suddenly he was playing the introduction to Barry White’s “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up.” Everybody cracked up as he sang a bit before they announced a great Patrice Rushen song, “Hang It Up.” This one featured outstanding harmony vocals from Glaspie, Hall, and Dyson. Lapham was killing some great space bass, and Hall had a fine electric piano solo.
They returned to Maze for “Running Away.” Hall played synths and then electric piano. Dyson and Lapham both ripped superb solos, and then Dyson and Hall locked in for a nice segment. There was a discussion of some illegal activity and probably another R. Kelly reference, and Hall played the Law and Order theme. Somehow, that led to a full-blown What’s Happening theme!
They called another Patrice Rushen tune, “Remind Me.” Glaspie said, “We only play music by Patrice Rushen and Maze!” Laughter all around, although that does sound like a fine idea! Hall got to use all of his keyboards for this one. Hall followed that up with “Catfish,” and outstanding Four Tops song from their 1976 album of the same name.
They were going to go on break but decided to play one more song. What happened next was a remarkable education moment, one all of us present will never forget. Glaspie said, “We’re going to play a song by the Greenwood, Archer, and Pine Band. Y’all don’t know who that is, do you?” She proceeded to tell us the story of The GAP Band, so named for Greenwood, Archer, and Pine, three of the streets that defined Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the early 20th century before the Greenwood neighborhood was burned to the ground in the Tulsa race massacre (May 31-June 1, 1921). She told us that “You Dropped the Bomb on Me” referred specifically to that; the three Wilson brothers in the GAP Band were from Tulsa.
Glaspie noted, however, that this show was about love, and they knocked out a version of “Outstanding” that was, well, you know. Toward the end, Hall and Glaspie got us going with “Clap your hands this evening, I said ‘It’s all right,’ yeah, yeah, yeah” (Earth, Wind & Fire: “Devotion” from Gratitude). Lapham’s bass line was totally sick.
As they had done all run long, the group provided the music for set break and before and after the show, and it was brilliant!
As the second set began, Hall and Glaspie dedicated the next song to birthday girl Jennelle Bean and to the late Kofi Burbridge; Oteil Burbridge had been a guest the previous night at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton. It was another Maze tune: “Happy Feeling.” Dyson got a great Leslie effect on her guitar, and she scatted as she soloed, which was awesome. She also had a rap in there as well.
Somehow, R. Kelly’s name came up again (Hall’s shirt Friday said, “Been Sick of R. Kelly since the 90s.” Then there was a discussion about how many choruses Hall would take for his synth solo on the next song, relating to John Scofield and “147,000” choruses. So Hall ran to the restroom.
On Friday, we had written this: About KAMANI, Glaspie told us it is a healing plant and that we could look it up. We WERE speculating whether it was KAtMAttNIgelNIkki. But then that would have been KAMANINI. So no. Healing plant it is.
With Hall gone, Glaspie said, “This is the KAMANI TRIO! KAt, MAtt, and NIkki.” Lots more laughter on a joyous evening. They ripped into a very different version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).” The three-part harmonies were glorious (Hall did return!), and Dyson tore another great solo. The song also afforded several opportunities for Lapham to show, and he did. Lapham is known as a Florida musician, but time and again he demonstrates that in this elevated company is exactly where he belongs.
It was Aretha time, with Hall singing a spirited “Jump to It.” His piano solo was electric, the harmonies tight. When it seemed it would end, Glaspie kicked back into it. The funk was deeper than deep, and we agreed with Hall when he gushed, “THAT’S THE SHIT RIGHT THERE, THEN, ALL NIGHT LONG!” Next was a tune, possibly “Try, Try, Try,” a great portion with just the ladies: Dyson and Glaspie.
A.J. Hall, a fine drummer, percussionist, and bass player, was in the house. He plays drums in Glaspie’s Band of Homies. He took the drum kit for another Maze tune. Glaspie attempted to go off stage, but she could not help herself coming back to sing harmonies!
Hall began the rap about live music encores, how you’re supposed to go off stage and wait for applause before returning. He said, “But we’re not that dramatic.” Glaspie jumped back in: “Speaking of The Dramatics….” Hall then jumped on “What You See is What You Get,” and it was awesome, now with four-part harmonies (A.J. Hall also singing). And they closed with a great version of “What a Fool Believes.” Hall’s voice would not let him hit those high notes, but nobody cared; it was glorious. And Dyson had one more great solo.
So thankful to catch two of these shows (also Friday at The New Standard in Winter Park). Dunedin Brewery and it proprietor, Michael Lynn Bryant, have been working hard to present live music in these difficult times. Normally, sound engineer Chris Fama has it locked down tight, but for this show — and the entire run — Natalie Tuttle ran sound; she works with Glaspie and did another amazing job.
Thanks also for photographs from Hunter Nicole Davis, Shelly Smith, and Phil Ross (feature image)!
[SET 1: Intro > Joy and Pain, Never, Never Gonna Give You Up > Hang It Up, Running Away, Law and Order theme > What’s Happening theme, Remind Me, Catfish, Outstanding; SET 2: Happy Feeling, Thank You, Jump to It, Try, Try, Try, Maze4, What You See Is What You Get, What a Fool Believes]