GUSTO, Buffalo News
by Jeff Miers
By day, he’s a soft-spoken dad and husband, a low-key family man.
By night, he prowls the seedy underbelly of Buffalo’s original music clubs, a glass balanced on his keyboard, cigarette perpetually dangling from his lips.
For years, David Kane has been a fixture on our scene, a mercurial artist equally capable of handling honky-tonk piano duties with the Headhunters or leading his own Them Jazzbeards down idiosyncratic, experimental byways.
With the release of “The Life and Times of Guy Friday” (K-9), however, Kane offers us a record that at once sums up his left-brained compositional ethic and points the way toward grand vistas only hinted at in his past work.
With the help of his agile and able quartet — guitarist Walter Sopicki, bassist Jim Morabito and drummer-percussionist Greg Gizzi — Kane has constructed a narrative flow out of a series of film-noir instrumentals, thematically linked by the trials and tribulations during one night in the life of the Kane-like character Guy Friday.
Throughout the record, Kane’s compositions and the wonderfully weird playing of his ensemble hint at what one might find in that epic, witty headspace where Frank Zappa’s fusion masterpiece “Hot Rats” meets Todd Rundgren’s psychedelic sloppy Joe “A Wizard, A True Star.”
It’s fun, it’s intelligent and it’s unlike anything else we’re hearing around these parts.
Courtesy of the beautiful album packaging, the humorous and intricate storyboard drawings of Z. Man Zilla and the cryptically hilarious titles Kane has given his songs, a storyline emerges.
We meet Friday, a chain-smoking musician who bears a marked resemblance to Kane, as he leaves the relative stability of his family life behind to venture out for yet another gig.
“Gotta gig, gotta go” is Friday’s mantra as he piles into his car, collects his bandmates and sallies forth into the urban jungle.
What follows is a veritable dark night of the soul. First, Friday learns that the beloved feline Uncle Boots has gone missing; soon, he encounters his “Evil Bob,” a mirror reflection of himself marked by a wicked sneer. Next, a prostitute solicits him as he wanders into a blind alley in search of Uncle Boots.
All of this and he hasn’t even gotten to the gig yet.
When he does, things only get worse. Here, Friday meets his buddy Eyepatch Jones, a Budweiser-slugging heckler who harangues the band: “Get off the stage, ya two-bit telethon band!”
It’s all in a night’s work for Friday, apparently. As he arrives home in the early-morning hours, he’s world-weary and philosophical, surmising that the characters he’s encountered are simply a few more in an endless line, part of “the big comic book that is life itself.”
Another day, another gig, another pack of Camels.
Musically, Kane’s tunes paint Friday’s story in broad strokes. There’s “Kinda Makes You Wanda,” powered by fluid, hip jazz lines from guitarist Sopicki and driven by Kane’s Nick Cave-like piano flourishes and luminous synth swells.
“Chromatose” begins with the blaring of car horns — the band is stuck in traffic en route to the gig — and erupts startlingly into a sort of psychedelic spy theme, pushed forward by Sopicki’s distorted, swirling guitar figure.
When Kane breaks free into a vintage-sounding synth line, it acts almost as a fanfare, one that gets beaten about the brow by Gizzi’s clever drumloop interjections. It’s incredibly detailed, inventive stuff.
“Spy Vs. Guy” is the album’s centerpiece, and it is here that the Kane Quartet shines brightest, effortlessly segueing between the swampy bass guitar strut of the Phillip Marlowe-like main theme — picture a trench-coated Bogart walking down a dark, deserted street in the pouring rain — and a full-on barrage of glorious guitar noise from Sopicki. Gizzi’s performance here is a slice of understated genius, dynamic as all get out.
“Six Foot Pole” is another dangerous shard of glassy subversion. The Kane Quartet is king of the setup. Here, a theme emerges in the rhythm section, Sopicki joins in with some angular guitar accents, Kane offers jarring discord, before the whole ensemble joins together in a harmonized figure that can only be described as the head of a jazz tune conceived in hell. Fantastic and extremely difficult to categorize.
Which is exactly as it should be.