by Patrick Dunn
From the November, 2017 issue
With its lengthy solos and emphasis on instrumental flair, the jam-band archetype provides musicians ample opportunity to show off. So perhaps the most intriguing element of Chirp's live show is that its four members resist the temptation to project even a bit of ego while onstage. This local band's long-form funk, jazz, and proggy rock numbers are tight and impeccably rendered, but the quartet's performance style is so laid-back that casual listeners may not realize just how good they are.
Jay Frydenlund and Ken Ball are the stars of the show, though the term feels like an overstatement for a band this low-key. The two guitarists complement each other beautifully, trading leads and rhythm parts almost seamlessly. Both Frydenlund and Ball enjoy a bright, funky, skittering rhythm chord just as much as a blues-inflected, technically complex extended solo. The band's originals stake out the same middle ground between catchy hooks and sly compositional complexity as their diverse repertoire of covers, which ranges from Jimi Hendrix to Curtis Mayfield to Rush.
Both Frydenlund and Ball also sing. Frydenlund has the stronger voice, including a fine falsetto that serves him well on some old-school funk covers. But instrumental bliss is the band's strong suit, and Chirp is most enjoyable when Frydenlund and Ball--to paraphrase Frank Zappa--shut up and play their guitars.
The rhythm section is equally solid. Chirp generally eschews the polarizing drum solos common among instrumental jam outfits, but that's no slight against drummer John Gorine. He's a thoroughly capable performer, handling simpler grooves with rock-steady precision but also annihilating more complicated prog fills with the same nonchalance. Bassist Brian Long helps round out Frydenlund and Ball's sound, sometimes tripling guitar lines with them and otherwise buoying the band's grooves with funky bass lines.
Long is perhaps the epitome of the band's almost comically relaxed attitude, at one point visibly yawning as he played his instrument at a recent Chirp show. Gorine and Ball are similarly inscrutable, and even Frydenlund, perhaps the band's biggest showman, never goes much further than occasionally tipping his head skyward as he sings. But this band isn't apathetic or disengaged; Chirp's members are just wholly dedicated to the simple act of playing music together, and their passion comes through fully in the music itself.
Chirp plays at ABC Microbrewery November 20 and the Session Room November 1, 15, and 22.
[Originally published in November, 2017.]
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