Fallfest: Al Howard and the K23 Orchestra Chime in with Ambitious Chaos All Their Own

    Ajam band for the
    Blue Note set, this San Diego jazz/funk/spoken-word five-piece is a heady
    trip.Drawing from the lyrical enthusiasm of Saul Williams and Gil Scott Heron,
    the sensuously funky rhythms of early-’70s Earth Wind and Fire and the hypnotic
    melodies of John Coltrane, K23 assembles a composite much less engaging than
    the sum of its influences.

    K23 is Steve Craft
    on drums, Matt LaBarber on bass, six-foot-eight-inch giant Ian Wright on lead
    guitar, Josh Rice on keyboard and organ, and self-proclaimed “social pugilist”
    Alfred Howard on vocals. Howard’s wannabe hip-hop, spoken-word vocals weave
    their way through K23’s soundscape, at times standing alone, backed by a subtle
    beat, or subsumed by waves of (not-all-that-) harmonic improvisation. K23’s Web
    site asserts that Howard’s lyrics appeal to “humanities [sic] most primal
    essence,” but one would hope that humanity’s fundamental nature isn’t trite,
    poorly reasoned animosity toward white picket fences, rush hour and
    televisions.

    K23 was founded in
    2003, and has since released three full-length and two live albums —Kudra, 14
    Days of the Universe and Live at Lestats Vol I & II (2004). The
    collective’s latest offering, Whisper of a Newborn Ghost, strives for a diverse
    blend, but attempts at rock ballads and soul ditties end up melting into a
    smooth jazz puddle.

    The group has played
    a residency at the San Diego House of Blues, sets at the Belly Up and pretty
    much every tavern, blues bar and mid-size club from Seattle
    to Flagstaff, Ariz., so they’ve definitely cut their teeth
    on live audiences. K23’s downtempo jams will ease our harried student body into
    the FallFest-ivities. Those in high spirits will get the most out of the set,
    as its jazzy indulgences and polemic liberal diatribes can be a bit heavy for
    those on the ground.

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