In kitchen parlance, Klyph Black is finally out of the weeds. After years on the road, the easygoing, soft spoken founder of Rumor Has It and bassist/vocalist for Grateful Dead offshoots The Zen Tricksters and Jam Stampede has found the spare time and spare parts to casually cook up a punchy, textured and nuanced record with his East Hampton-based musical partner Tali “Icepack” Jackson.
“I’ve known Tali for a long time,” said Klyph as he traced the tangled genealogy of his new project. “There was this band that I used to go see with my mom and Tali was the drummer. This was in East Hampton; I was like 14 years old. Years later, we started jamming together at the [Stephen] Talkhouse. And it just happened out of osmosis.”
BK2SQ1 [Back to Square One] came together in a series of happy accidents and benign defaults. In sessions reminiscent of the homegrown, organic vibe of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street and The Band’s Music From Big Pink, Black and his loose band of brothers have made a record with warm grooves, sharp songwriting and an earthy, restrained musicianship that speaks to the vortex of Montauk voodoo from which it came.
“There were other people originally involved,” explained Black with a self-deprecating smirk and a shrug. “Other guitar players were supposed to come down and didn’t. So I played guitar. Other guys were supposed to come down to sing. They didn’t come down. So I sang. That’s how the thing fell together.”
As the project gained steam, other cats did start to show, including Charles Neville. The New Orleans legend played on a handful of tracks, including “Gumbeau Sally,” which gets the French Quarter, garden at midnight, Tom Waits treatment with plenty of Neville’s thick horns and inventive, multi-layered percussion from Jackson. “Lovers Paradise” is another major standout with its slinky Bo Diddley beat, airy guitar washes and slicing rhythms. “Lazy River” is all heart and tradition, with warm Zydeco inflections and bittersweet Delta sadness. “Boscarno” is balls to the wall, with Black doing double duty—first laying down Funkadelic James Brown licks and then channeling Albert King as he shreds over the top.
“All these other guys kept coming and going,” Black laughs. “I just kept playing, and kept picking up things here and there. And this is eventually what came out of it. This…gumbo!”
With the Zen Tricksters, Black has seen the world. Yet as an East End lifer, he also knows what it’s like to hunker down for long Montauk winters. His latest music reflects this paradox; it reads like a well-worn, trusted book of maps, but one in which all the roads soak up what they see of the country in Kerouacian swells of beauty and eventually circle all the way back to “The End”—for now.
“Going on the road is great because you go places you’d never dream to go,” said Black of his extensive touring career. “But there’s an energy [out East], without a doubt. There’s a lot of creativity. A lot of people doing a lot of creative stuff.”
Until the road calls once again, you can count Klyph Black and Icepack Jackson among them.
Catch Klyph Black and Tali “Icepack” Jackson and their band on Saturday November 19th 8pm at Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.