comments

Kimock is instrumental in the music scene

Veteran Bay Area guitarist brings all-star lineup to Grass Valley
By: Paul Cambra, Features Editor
-A +A

 

Steve Kimock 
With Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess 
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 30
Where: The Center for the Arts. 314 W Main Street, Grass Valley
Tickets: $25 members, $30 non-member. Available at The Center Box Office, (530) 274-8384 ext. 14; BriarPatch Co-op Community Market, (530) 272-5333; www.thecenterforthearts.org.

 

Seems like Steve Kimock has made a career out of playing with legendary Northern California musicians. And we’re not just talking members of the Grateful Dead, though he did time with just about every member for the better part of three decades. There were names like Bruce Hornsby, Melvin Seals, Pete Sears, John Cipollina and Nicky Hopkins. 
 
But they all came in tied for second when he had to name his favorite person the share the stage with.
 
“The most rewarding, by far, is playing with my son John,” Kimock said, from his home in Lehigh Valley, Pa. “By some incredible blast of goodwill, my first born grows up to love music and be a fantastic musician.”
 
John Morgan Kimock, 23, will not be accompanying his father on the trip to Grass Valley at the end of the month. There will, however, be a top-notch trio of well-traveled players alongside him on stage. Drummer Wally Ingram has played with Sheryl Crow and David Lindley. Bass player Andy Hess boasts the Black Crowes on his resume. And keyboardist Bernie Worrell? Well, he’s only a founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic and a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer to boot.
 
“I get to see this guy every night go through his stuff, he can’t play anything wrong,” Kimock said. “He was one of those child prodigies on the classical piano. He’s got this ridiculous innovative use of synthesizer for melodies; he’s equal parts European classical and cartoon music. It’s a delight to play with him every night.”
 
Kimock’s reputation has largely been based on instrumental improvisation; just don’t call them a jam band. 
 
“In the late 70s ‘jam band’ was a slur the music industry came up with,” he said. “It was like a slam on the live music scene because they couldn’t get their manufactured boys bands to sell tickets. I never embraced that handle. Even today it’s so ill defined, maybe more of a marketing handle as opposed to a musical style.”
 
That being said, while Kimock has touched upon a slew of genres over the years — folk/rock, salsa, psychedelic — most of his bands have not had singers, though his salsa band, “The Underdogs,” with saxophonist Martin Fierro, did on more than one occasion have an “eternally pregnant woman” sing everything in Spanish for them.
 
“We’re mostly instrumental with a good bit of improvisation because I’m a terrible singer,” he said. “Bernie sings some, and I am occasionally pressed into service, as some kind of novelty act. A lot I write is song spaces that are right for putting your imagination into it, with space for listening.” 
 
Kimock moved back to Pennsylvania 10 years ago to be closer to family. He grew up in Bethlehem, and, like many who were 10 years old when the Beatles hit the scene, thought it would be cool to be in a band.
 
“I remember I saw Joan Baez on TV, finger picking and I thought ‘that was so cool, how do you do that?’”
 
But for all of the musical styles he consumed — from John Coltrane to Captain Beefheart to Ravi Shankar — his greatest musical influences were still family and friends.
 
“It’s the people you are closest to that make the biggest impression,” he said. “My Aunt Dottie was a folk singer, my cousin played the guitar. To this day, I can’t pick up the bottleneck without thinking of Billy Goodman, or the slide guitar without thinking of Frank (the folk/rock group The Goodman Brothers was his first Bay Area band).” 
 
Kimock said he looks forward to a return to Northern California. For all his time spent on San Francisco stages, he always lived a rural life, in either west Marin or Sonoma County, for a while caretaking a sheep ranch in Bodega Bay. He feels more comfortable creatively in a natural setting.
 
“I get super jangled in a city,” he said.
 
So then, how does a Pennsylvania country boy fare in Japan? The band is fresh off a headlining slot at the Fuji Rock Festival.
 
“The whole experience to me feels like getting abducted by aliens and dropped into this advanced civilization,” Kimock said. “The language barrier is insurmountable. Anywhere I go in Europe I can at least read the alphabet and figure stuff out. But Japan is like another planet.”
 
It was, however, not without its high points, Kimock found the fans there to be a more than capable audience.
 
“The coolest thing, at least as it pertains to music, is they are so into the music as an audience,” he said. “They really follow the dynamics of the band, they are very participatory. When you are hushed they curl up and hush with you and when you jump on it they’re on their feet.”
 
Will Nevada County be up to the task in measuring up to the Japanese audiences? It may not matter to Kimock. He’ll just be happy they speak the same language.
 
Steve Kimock, with Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram and Andy Hess will play the Center for the Arts on Saturday, March 30. Tickets are available at The Center Box Office, BriarPatch Co-op Community Market and online at www.thecenterforthearts.org.