Automatic Chi in Charlotte

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Automatic Chi
Double Door Inn
Charlotte, North Carolina
February 19, 2008

Automatic Chi, an aptly named group of musicians whose communication and groove are, well…automatic.  The five-piece group played for a modest crowd at The Double Door Inn in Charlotte on February 19.  Under the dim lights of the intimate and legendary venue, Automatic Chi started the first set with a low smooth roll on the drums, pulsing into a laid back groove that dominated most of the evening.

AC-2-19-08-DDI-010-LoRes.jpg The second tune, “Punchy” opened with a driving energetic flow that was highlighted by an expert solo by guitarist Dave Eatman.  Eatman’s close-handed technique was fascinating to watch as you heard the busy, frenetic lines pound from the amps. His was a straightforward approach to the harmonies, making his improv both interesting and easy to follow.

 Automatic Chi is comprised of five band members; Dustin Hofsess (of Green Light) on lead guitar, Dave Eatman (of Belly Full) on rhythm guitar, Matt Pike (Belly Full) on bass, Adam Snow (Green Light) on drums, and David Palmer (Belly Full) on keyboard.  This is the group’s first appearance together since last fall.

The band treated the crowd to a few more strolling tunes before settling in on a Wes Montgomery standard which felt like an easy home space.  They were visually relaxed, and the improv was free on all parts, drawing the listener into this comfortable place with them.  Then, just as you are about to be lulled into your own happy space, you notice the keyboard solo by David Palmer building; the embellishments gaining intensity and interest, the energy growing and you can hear the elements of classical style and technique.  Fingers flying, hands rolling runs that make any listener lean in to know “where is he going?”  As smoothly as Palmer takes you up, he pulls you steadily back into that comfortable space that you started in.

Next up was “Things I Should’ve Done”, followed by “The Modern Promethius”, a tune by keyboardist David Palmer; a remarkable tune, which had strong hints of old-school video game themes.  The sounds and effects used made this tune really stand out from the total set.  This progressive piece was random and covertly organized into a mesh of sound and creative flow that can only be described as true fusion jazz.  It was plain to see that this tune was a lot of fun to play for the entire group.  It was also great to see drummer Adam Snow break out towards the end and lay down some creative action on his cymbals and tom.  It was just enough to make you wish Snow had been taking more choruses during the total set.

AC-2-19-08-DDI-007-LoRes.jpg A short break led into the second and final set with a slow jam, highlighted by Snow’s percussive styling, followed by a tune by Eatman that opened with bassist Pike steadily rocking the crowd while  Hofsess on lead and Eatman on rhythm, work out the head in tandem with perfect unity.

Automatic Chi is as much fun to watch as it is to listen.  To see a heightened level of communication through each tune, as they work the form, is a testament to how long these guys have played together.  They execute with ease effects that younger groups spend hundreds of hours contriving in their basements.  Everything about this grouping feels very natural and fun.  As the night wears on, their energy increases and that energy flows from the stage to the listener.

The show wrapped up with “Mental Floss”, by Dustin Hofsess, a rolling reggae groove.  Palmer takes an awesome keyboard solo that evolves from walking scale to an organic fugue to a vampire funk.  Automatic Chi’s brand of fusion jazz is equally entertaining to both the critical artist as well as the casual listener.  A Tuesday night well spent, and thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.

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