Modern funk, fusion, jazz and progressive rock fans got their itches scratched in L.A. recently, as Kung Fu hit The Mint. The enthusiastic audience danced, bounced and swayed to the funky beats into the early morning at the historic club on Pico Boulevard.
Before Kung Fu performed, the Long Beach, California, based jamband The Higgs opened the show. They impressed the crowd with a set of trippy jams with strong elements of prog, alt-rock and reggae. Lead vocalist and guitarist John Lovero played creative solos reminiscent of jam legends like Anastasio, Casal and Herring. Keyboard wizard Jesse August Jennings also impressed with massive solos on his multiple sets of keyboards. These guys are on the rise.
A few of the gigs on the King Fu tour were billed as “Fez West” – reprising the 2017 Fez tour featuring shows that combine Kung Fu originals with the music of Steely Dan. The Mint show included songs from their albums Tsar Bomba and Joy Ride, as well as few new songs and some classic Steely Dan tunes.
They came out swinging with Steely Dan’s “Kid Charlemagne” and immediately segued into their new tune “Chop Suey” from their “Ninja Cuts” releases. Tim Palmieri played intense guitar solos while Rob Somerville showed his amazing chops on the tenor sax. Palmieri, Somerville, bassist Chris DeAngelis and keyboards wizard Beau Sasser each contributed vocals throughout the set.
The band invited one of their East Coast friends, Pete Pidgeon (from Pete Pidgeon & Arcoda) to help out on vocals and guitar during an excellent cover of Steely Dan’s “Josie.” Pidgeon departed and the band launched into an amazing “Joyride” before going back to the Steely Dan catalog with “Hey Nineteen.” A new Kung Fu original instrumental, “Dirty Power,” featured an amazing guitar solo by Palmieri.
The band kept the Steely Dan tribute going with a fine version of “My Old School.” DeAngelis and drummer Adrian Tramontano played a long bass and drum duet before the full band broke into Tsar Bomba’s “Hollywood Kisses.” Somerville led on vocals with the other guys harmonizing. During the lengthy instrumental portion of the song, Somerville really cooked with a complex, funky sax solo.
The band closed the set with Steely Dan’s “Reeling in the Years” as Palmieri took over lead vocals and magically reproduced that tune’s distinctive guitar riff. The band was super tight all set and the classic cover was a fine way to end the show. The guys left the stage for a few minutes but came back to play another new one from their “Ninja Cuts” series called “Caught Up.” The song has a great, funky groove with Somerville and Sasser leading on vocals.