Any time you attend a show where Dave King is behind the drum kit, you know you are in for a special performance. King remains so relentlessly active in the Twin Cities music scene that you never know who he’s going to start drumming with and where he’s going to pop up next.
The composer and percussion virtuoso is being celebrated—and being put to work—this week with a string of shows at Icehouse during a three-night residency being referred to as the Dave King Take-Over. A wide array of King’s bands—many of whom haven’t played around town in quite a while—are set to perform over the course of the three-night stand, with other notable local groups set to join in the King-focused musical merriment.
Just who the hell is Dave King, you say? Glad you asked. Here are some reasons why this talented musician should definitely be on your radar, if he’s not already.
1. He’s mastered every drumming style
While King is rightfully known primarily as a jazz drummer due to his exemplary work in Happy Apple, the Bad Plus, the Dave King Trucking Company, and other trailblazing jazz-based groups, he also creates some mean beats with more rock-oriented bands like Halloween, Alaska; the Gang Font; and Love-Cars, all three of whom will be performing highly-anticipated sets at Icehouse. King can switch up his style to augment any type of song or style—be it hard bop, free-jazz, electro-pop, or gritty rock—and his inventive, roiling rhythms typically take each group he plays with in fresh, exciting new sonic directions.
2. He surrounds himself with talent
The list of distinguished musicians that King has worked with over his lengthy career is quite impressive. In addition to the plethora of talented musicians who join him in his various current bands, King has also played drums for the likes of Bill Frisell, Joshua Redman, Greg Norton, Meat Beat Manifesto, Jeff Beck, Dead Prez, Atmosphere, Boots Riley, Haley Bonar, and Mason Jennings, among many others. King clearly knows talent when he hears it, and these well-respected musicians obviously wanted an accomplished, skilled drummer who could provide the distinctive rhythms they were looking for. Working alongside these experienced artists has honed King’s own style while propelling his sound ever forward, but those musicians have also clearly benefited from his imaginative drumming skills.
3. He sticks by his friends
Despite a restless tendency to come up with the next musical challenge that he can take on, King is quite loyal to his longtime friends and musical cohorts. He grew up with Bad Plus bassist Reid Anderson (the Bad Plus have an upcoming residency of their own at the Dakota from Dec. 25-28) and regularly works with his old bandmates from his other creative outlets whenever his busy schedule allows. As much as this residency is about celebrating the music of Dave King, it also allows for the spotlight to be shined on his talented friends in Lateduster (featuring Andrew Broder, Martin Dosh, J.G. Everest, and Bryan Olson), Red Daughters (who will be celebrating the release of their new LP, Dealer), and his longstanding musical comrades Erik Fratzke, James Diers, and the litany of other talent who will be taking the Icehouse stage over the course of three nights.
4. He has a great sense of humor
Jazz music is often thought of as stuffy, overly self-serious music that doesn’t have much room for humor or lightheartedness. Well, anyone who knows King or has seen him perform knows that he brings a wicked sense of humor to his shows and injects that same spirit into his compositions. He cracks wise so often during his sets that I’ve often felt he should get all the jokes out of his system by opening the show with his very own comedy act. But King’s unique sense of humor keeps whatever style of music he is playing from being bogged down by either the scholarly restraints of jazz or the testosterone-addled trappings of rock music. He simply makes music fun, and that energy and attitude is contagious, and spreads to not only his bandmates, but also to the fans watching him play. Who isn’t going to love albums with such facetious titles as Please Refrain From Fronting or song titles like “Highly Varnished Academic Realism”? King definitely keeps things light on the surface, even if he gets deep with his music.
5. He never stops working
I have an immense amount of respect for any artist who consistently takes on new creative opportunities in an effort to keep his or her sound fresh and break free of musical routines. Dave King’s expansive, innovative career is a testament to this ethos, and his work has frequently benefited from the creative risks he took along the way. Not every project that King has involved himself in will appeal to fans of his other material, but even if you don’t like the direction he took his sound, you can still respect him for challenging himself creatively. Whatever group King plays in, his drumming style and sound is constantly evolving—his work creating subtle, ethereal beats in Halloween, Alaska make him a better drummer in the Bad Plus, and vice versa. That unsettled creative drive propels the avant-garde music of every project King is involved in, and it is just one of the many reasons we should be thankful for Dave King.