Plays Monk is a casual group consisting of Scott Amendola on drums, Devin Hoff on upright bass & Ben Goldberg on clarinet. When they can they get together & play small venues & bars around the Bay Area, often for free.
I've seen all three in various settings but never as Plays Monk, where they play nothing but Thelonious Monk compositions.
The Attic is a VERY groovy venue in downtown Santa Cruz just down the street from the Catalyst that's been open for a couple of years. It's an art gallery/music/dancing space and it's NICE! It's a classic Santa Cruz type of place; VERY artistic and earthy, but it's all done very well.
I've never been there before, and after seeing it I'm sorry that they don't get "better" talent there more often. It reminded me of the Noe Valley Ministry but bigger & nicer, and the acoustics were great; they should be booking better groups!
On this Sunday evening there were probably 35 people sitting on sofas and comfy chairs around the band and the sounds were so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Amandola is a GREAT drummer; a Berkeley guy who plays with anybody & everybody in the area (including Phil!). He has a regular touring gig with Madeleine Peyroux but when he's in town he's ALWAYS playing somewhere. He's a very delicate, gentle, articulate player, he's great with brushes, he's always RIGHT in the groove and man, he swings! Devin Hoff is an excellent bass player and he and Amendola play together OFTEN so they are locked tight.
Unfortunately Ben Goldberg is OK at best; he reminds me of a high school music teacher who plays semi-pro gigs for fun. He's good and all (it's not easy to play T. Monk music) but he's not in the same league as the other two (he occationally SQUEEKS his clarinet!)
Because of this the group falls short of greatness, but the music is still very groovy, often beautiful and really fun to listen to while sipping a tasty beverage, and since they play TINY venues (usually for $5 - $10) they are an excellent group to check out if you happen to notice them playing somewhere near you.
Usually they play in places like Bruno's on Mission in SF or 21 Grand in Oakland (another art gallery used as a music space where you pay what you think is fair!!!) or at Bacar, a high-brow restaurant South-Of-Market in SF for FREE.
(BTW, Amendola is playing with Will Bernard & Wil Blades at the Starry Plough in Berkeley on Friday for $8, and if anyone from New York is reading this, in March the Scott Amendola Band with Nels Cline & Jenny Scheinman is playing at a place called The Jazz Standard, and a day later the three members of Plays Monk are part of a Nels Cline-lead group playing at the same venue. These shows shouldn't be missed!)
Seeing Plays Monk or other Amendola projects is like a palate cleanser for the ear; it's clean, good quality, thoughtful, grown up music & it doesn't cost much, if anything. These are musicians playing for the love of it, and for the most part they're damn good at it too!!
Very nice review Lance.
Scott Amendola was the drummer at an very early Phil Lesh & Friends show at the Fillmore. 1998 I think.