Veteran jazz musician/beat poet David Amram “discovered” four young guys in Brooklyn, and the mutual admiration society they developed has paid off in fun shows which play out outside the box. The Amigos alternate their own brand of folk-rock, cajun and joie-de-vivre music with Amram’s simple-sounding penny whistle and virtuoso jazz piano stylings, and keep audiences wondering, What’s next?
The evening started out with the group playing a spirited, recognizable version of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” So far, so good: not revolutionary from a cowboy-shirted group sporting standup bass, guitar, accordion, pennywhistle and—OK—drums. When Amram sat down at the grand piano, however, the guys launched into a stride piano, accordion and cowbell version of “Take the A Train,” and we all knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Later, in the middle of “Pull My Daisy,” Amram went into what seemed like a 15-minute spoken-word history of his pal Jack Kerouac, alternating playing piano, French horn and scatting. It seemed completely off the cuff, and when I asked his manager, Doug Yeager, if Amram were really making this up as he went along, Yeager replied, “Absolutely. And if we were in Berlin, he’d be doing it in German. And in Paris, in French.”
The Amigos relived moments from their State Department tour of the Far East and interspersed a few original tunes (including a lovely, close-harmony “More Than Friends”) with folk song staples. They ended the night with the last song the Amigos played every night from Beijing to Burma, John Denver’s “Country Road,” unexpected enough to keep us clapping, and singing along.
I’ll be sure to catch the Amigos at Rockwood Music Hall on May 2, and I hope to see you there, too. This collection of talented young men is well worth the price of admission.
– Suzanne Cadgene