Scott Amendola & Wil Blades Team Up As Amendola vs. Blades On Deeply Spacious ‘ Everybody Wins’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Music lovers dismayed to see credits for additional musicians on Scott Amendola and Wil Blades’ Everybody Wins will subsequently be delighted to hear how the four other participants assist the two principals on this Royal Potato Family record. In fact, the duo’s able compatriots aid in conjuring up a create a deep spacious sound, a dynamic virtually identical to that which the pair alone generate, one in which it sounds like there are many more musicians in action than in reality.

As if to set ground rules, though, the duo appears on their own here at three junctures beginning with a brisk jaunt through “Hi Lo.” Amendola pushes forward insistently at his drum kit while Blades alternates loping lines from the organ with choppy syncopation from the clavinet. If the duo didn’t sufficiently portray their versatility there, on “’Fess Up (Before We Mess Up),” they unfurl an almost but not quite New Orleans second-line rhythm through which they engage in instrumental dialogue. 

With “Metropolitan Hustle,” the principals build upon a template Herbie Hancock created over four decades ago with albums like Headhunters and Thrust, adding the icing of electronics and other effects over percolating funk. “Wall Town,” however, might be the most straightforward piece here, with saxophonist Skerik soloing over a steady underpinning; it’s a performance that reminds when it’s necessary to learn conventions before transcending them. The same premise applies to this comparatively sparse title song.

Elsewhere we see and hear contributions from guitarist Jeff Parker and percussionist Cyro Baptista, natural additions to a keyboards/drums combo, but novel ones nonetheless in this context. Not coincidentally, the latter appears on “Cyroette,” immediately tossing rhythmic textures into the spaces Amedola leaves with his various drums: Blades sprays swirling organ and semi-crisp electric piano notes over those pops, jangles and shakes. This is almost but not quite as rich as it gets here because, for even more color, the guitar of Parker (who distinguished himself on Blades’ excellent Field Notes of 2014) enters mid-track to paint a wide sonic backdrop for the core twosome. 

As close as anything to a tour-de-force on this forty-six-minute album, it is not one of a kind. Employing a battery of instruments including Orchestron, Korg synthesizer and bowed vibes, Rob Burger injects all manner of exotic sounds on the closing “Fabulous Stupendous,” an almost kaleidoscopic but definitely merry-sounding finish. Add in the palpable presence of the sound itself, co-produced by Scott Amendola and Wil Blades (mixed by Eli Crews and mastered by Thomas Dimuzio), and this album title ends up an understatement.

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