Chris Sgammato’s “Accidental Necessity”
Chris Sgammato had a plan. He wanted to present an evening featuring a lot of brand new music in addition to some old favorites and choice covers. Sgammato is chock full of music. He is a gifted singer and plays guitar, keyboards, alto sax, bass, and drums. He flourished in outstanding jamband Displace, wrote a titanic musical called Inertia, is a favorite go-to player for special collaborations, and often works with Shaun Hopper. On top of all that, he runs a music school for children and adults and (pre-COVID) would hold several afternoon music showcases for his students at amenable venues such as Crowbar.
For the program he called “Accidental Necessity,” he put together a quartet with Evan Thibeault on drums, Nathan Barnitz on bass, and Christopher Barbosa on violin and keyboards. Let’s pause for a moment to point out that Barbosa on violin is my favorite musician in the Tampa Bay area and probably further geographically. He continued to demonstrate his prowess all evening and added some fine keyboard work as well.
The title “Accidental Necessity” comes from a short Sgammato tune that appeared on the debut Displace album Eureka! and again as “Part 2” on Undertow, the group’s second record.
The show at Dunedin Brewery December 18 was another ticketed show with its maximum of 30 patrons in this safe and sound environment. The first set launched, delightfully, with a tune inserted into the setlist specifically for me: Jean-Luc Ponty’s “The Trans-Love Express.” Sgammato started on electric guitar. Barbosa had two fine solos with one by Sgammato on alto sandwiched in between; Barbosa also played keyboards.
Sgammato sang a Muse, “Panic Station,” and ripped a fine guitar solo before reinventing “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” (Cage the Elephant) as a hip hop tune. Barnitz and Thibeault were providing good rhythm backing; both would dig deeper as the set developed.
He then asked us if we were ready for some new music. The response was, of course, enthusiastic; the promise of new tunes was what brought us there! What emerged was a medley with “Redefine > Caverns > Crippling Self-Doubt.” “Redefine” was an introspective piece, with dark self-description, Sgammato on guitar. Barnitz moved to synth bass and keyboard as the song segued from “Caverns” into “Crippling Self-Doubt” with Barbosa on violin and Sgammato on keyboards. Barnitz had a brief feature.
There is no other cover tune Sgammato plays that excites the crowd the way “Valerie” does from the original Zutons version. From there he announced “Jam in A,” playing alto again with Barbosa and Barnitz on keyboards. More new music was next: “Scarecrow” and “Rabbit.” The former was a mid-tempo rocker with Sgammato sing in a very soft voice; on the later he played both guitar and alto. Barnitz was getting deeper into the groove while Thibeault kept everybody on time, and Barbosa had a huge feature to end the first set.
The second opened with a tune from the Displace album Undertow, a fine song titled “Friction.” Barbosa on violin and Sgammato’s vocal gymnastics were key here. Then Sgammato turned Thibeault loose on “Rap in 5” (actually Flobots’ “Jetpack”), which was very effective with the drummer providing the rap over the unusual time signature, followed by a solid cover of “Time” from Dark Side of the Moon, Barbosa wailing on violin. Next up was a Barbosa composition titled “Last of their Kind”; the opening reminded of “Tubular Bells” before it turned into a screaming hard rocker. Barnitz blew this one up.
Sgammato then mentioned “video game music from your childhood,” which turned out to be “Dire Dire Docks,” a theme from “Mario 64.” Synth bass, alto sax, and DX-7-sounding keyboard filled this one out. They continued with the happiest, most uptempo rendition of “Creep” (Radiohead) you can imagine! Another Displace song from Undertow, “Float,” delighted fans who remembered it and everybody else as well.
Sgammato then asked us if we were ready for some funk, and out spilled The Meters’ “Cissy Strut,” as he grabbed the top keyboard which was — TA DA — a key-tar! (And a thanks to Josh Kim of The Reality for the loan.) And Barbosa was rocking clavinet and synths. Sgammato went off stage, briefly, as Barnitz went to the synth bass to play those familiar opening chords to Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” Barbosa on electric piano. Sgammato would scurry back to add alto sax to the mix.
“Hey Ya!” as a ballad? Why not? (OutKast would be proud!) And then a great singalong to “Royals” (I was the only person in a ten-mile radius who didn’t know the Lorde song). The quartet closed out a fine evening with another excellent Barbosa composition called “Funk / All In”, and there was much rejoicing!
Kudos once again to Michael Lyn Bryant and his staff at Dunedin Brewery for another safe and sound show and to sound engineer Chris Fama for making sure all seven keyboards were hooked up (in addition to everything else)!
Kudos also to great photographers Jeffrey Moellering / snapzalot.com and Chuck Smalling / Funk Eye Media. Their photos are interspersed throughout the article, and below there is a gallery of shots from each!
[SET 1: The Trans-Love Express, Panic Station, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, Redefine > Caverns > Crippling Self-Doubt, Valerie, Jam in A, Scarecrow > Rabbit; SET 2: Friction, Jetpack, Time, Last of Their Kind, Dire Dire Docks, Creep, Float, Cissy Strut, Chameleon, Hey Ya!, Royals, Funk / All In]
Gallery by Jeffrey Moellering / snapzalot.com