T.j. Kirk

Although T.J. Kirk is not a well-known name in jazz/fusion history, the quartet’s story is unique. T.J. Kirk, an eight-string guitarist, was formed as a side band to Charlie Hunter’s self-titled, San Francisco-based group. It took its name from three of the artists that made up its catalogue: Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Thelonius Monk and James Brown. Hunter had begun his recording career in 1993. He brought Scott Amendola (his group’s drummer) to T.J. Kirk, where he joined John Schott and Will Bernard, more traditional six-string guitars. Although they wanted to call themselves James T. Kirk, the band settled on T.J. Kirk for their debut CD 1995. This was because Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek creator, didn’t grant permission for them to use that name. Hunter was able to experiment with different styles than with his own band. The eight-string guitarist played both bass lines and guitar melodies, and added keyboard-like textures using his Novax instrument. Combining Hunter’s powerful drumming with Amendola, Hunter gave Bernard and Schott freedom to rework the classics of their namesake trio like “Soul Power,” “Bemsha Swing,” and “Serenade to a Cuckoo.” If Four was One, the group’s 1996 sequel, was even more impressive. T.J. Kirk was a master at imitating Brown’s soul songs (“Get on the Good Foot,” The Payback”), and making danceable the jazz standards by Monk or Kirk (“Damn right I’m Somebody,” Ruby, My Dear,” Four in One”). Hunter was not one to be satisfied and made changes to his band’s music career. T.J. Kirk was almost finished when he performed the entire Natty Dread album of reggae legend Bob Marley in 1997. T.J. Kirk’s reign was officially ended by the death of Hunter’s saxophonist Calder Spanier, who died in an automobile accident later in the year. Hunter also made the decision to move from the Bay Area in 1998 to New York. T.J. Kirk, however, is unofficially the jazz/fusion’s greatest cover band. Anyone who has heard their albums knows this. The 2005 release by Rope-A-Dope of a 1997 concert was further evidence. Allmusic

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