Steve Kimock Crazy Engine

Guitarist Steve Kimock may not be the easiest person to keep an account of, but one thing is sure: His projects have kept the bar high on the national jam-band scene.

"My interest in ensembles is the collaboration," Kimock says. "I really do love the idea of everybody just pitching in on some musical level. I go for a small band model with everyone making significant contributions. I find that dynamic very attractive."

Kimock and his latest project, called Crazy Engine, have toured steadily this year and have a string of Northwest shows slated for venues such as Stillwater in Ashland, the McDonald Theatre in Eugene and the Aladdin in Portland.

"Its been constant this year," Kimock says. "A lot of it is too much fun. Me, Johnny and Trevor went to Europe this summer and played a bunch of gigs. The gig is the schedule. The work is getting from one to the other. But its more fun than not."

With Hammond B3 player Melvin Seals, bassist Trevor Exter and Kimock's son, John Morgan, on drums, Crazy Engine takes a bit of the old and a bit of the new into its mix of improvisational music based on classic rock, jazz and R&B.

Kimock, born in 1955 in Pennsylvania, became a fixture on the San Francisco Bay Area music scene in the mid '70s. Kimock and drummer Greg Anton formed Zero, the quintessential San Francisco jam-band that played a hybrid of psychedelic rock with classic rock undertones, in 1984. For two decades, Zero featured sought-after California talent, including guitarist John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service), bassist Bobby Vega, the late saxophonist Martin Fierro, keyboardist and guitarist Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship, Jorma Kaukonen Trio, Hot Tuna), keyboardist Chip Roland and vocalist Judge Murphy.

Since the early '90s, a looser, bluesier project, Steve Kimock & Friends, also featured an ever-changing cast of players. Then came the Steve Kimock Band — first featuring Vega, then Grammy Award-winning drummer Rodney Holmes.

When Kimock took time off from running around the globe with a band under his own name, he wasn't taking time off from playing. He's also performed with a number of nationally touring projects that include Bruce Hornsby, Bob Weir and Mickey Hart in the Other Ones, the Heart of Gold Band with Keith and Donna Godchaux, Phil Lesh & Friends, Jerry Joseph and Little Women, RatDog, Kingfish and others.

But then Kimock would begin to miss having a team to collaborate with and wish that he was writing more music. He also is not one to wander around looking at the ground during a downward economic situation in the country.

"When the general shape of the thing becomes fairly miserable, you just have to rock your way through it," Kimock says. "You have to behave as though having a good time is important."

Kimock wanted a new group — one he could write for and develop. A certain kind of band for 2009 America. A new, upbeat, gospel-influenced, soul rock band called Steve Kimock Crazy Engine.

"That's what I saw," he says. "It's difficult to describe the sound of something, the qualities of it. It would be easier if I wasn't so keen on the idea of the ensemble as being an entity — the result of the process of having all of the players involved is that the band is diverse, evolving. Which is what I like. I don't like to be one thing in a static way. I like lots of stuff coming together and moving apart."

Kimock's new arrangement of seasoned players and talented young musicians is in step with his innovative ideas about music and puts a modern twist on his vintage appeal.

"The gig, the gathering, the community is the thing," Kimock says. "Then hit them with the music. Bingo."

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