Keyed Up

Mighty Dave Pellicciaro

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Materialized (Mighty Dave, far left)

Catch Materialized this Friday, February 17th, at The Fillmore in San Francisco at the annual Cosmic Love Ball, where they’ll be joined by special guests guitarist Brian Jordan (Karl Denson, Lauren Hill), MC Radio Active and Robin Coomer (Loop!Station) along with headliner improv-electronica faves EOTO and others in an amorous sonic genesis. Tickets available here!

David Pellicciaro bills himself as a “solid B3 & keyboard player,” but the man better known as “Mighty Dave” left mere solid behind some years back. A mainstay of the SF Bay Area’s improv, funk, live-electronica and jazz worlds, Pellicciaro expresses the full storytelling capabilities of the Hammond B3 organ with a style that’s warmly conversational but also eager to stretch the dialect and push into new sounds, new combinations and new spaces. He’s none too shabby on a whole host of other keyboards, too, where his yen for cool noises, ensnaring melodies and undulating atmosphere surfaces in colors, bright and dark – the Impound really digs when the Mighty One gets down ‘n’ dirty werid!

His main collaboration in recent years is Materialized, a dare-ya-to-define-it modern music molding adventure built around Pellicciaro and drummer Dale Fanning (The Living Daylights) but expanding and shrinking to accommodate varied amounts of input from horns, guitars, etc. In their duo form, they do their part to update the vibe of a classic soul-jazz pair for the new century, but their nature is appealingly malleable, welcoming hands that hold whatever one wants to pour into them, with Fanning and Pellicciaro each capable of being prime soloists and superb support players. What’s especially fun about Materialized is how one might encounter almost any kind of music happening with them and rest fairly assured they’ll spin it ‘round with aplomb.

Pellicciaro has been called in by giants like the Grateful Dead, The Black Crowes and others, all of whom recognize the guy’s pro instincts and rules defying character. It’s a pretty neat combination of traits that continues to make Pellicciaro a much in-demand soundtrack composer, session player, and live staple in the S.F. scene and beyond.

Check out Materialized most recent album here!

Check out a brand new Materialized cut here!

Here’s what Mighty Dave had to say in the Impound’s keyboardist survey.

Favorite keyboard? Why?
I love them all for different reasons! They all do something special that feels great. My custom B3/high powered Leslie is just a rich, righteous monster that makes an outrageous spectrum of sound from Sun Ra Solar Meltdowns to the sound of a bee’s wing. The Moog is The Moog – it’s like Detroit steel, big and serious but ohhh baby! My Virus Ti was one of the first in the country, and I loved it from the second it was born! It’s a great, powerful and interesting digital monster – very editable and infinitely creative. The Ti is also cool because Access is constantly upgrading the OS and functionality so it’s always growing. DAVE SMITH! The Prophet is brilliant, and sounds great – great layout and very playable, both sound and ergonomics. Love his Mopho and Tetra. (Dave, hit me up for an endorsement, love, David P.) My Roland Super Jupiter is studio-only these days, but gets used for recording and layering tricks. I love keys that makes you want to get your hands in there and keep ‘em there. I am very dedicated to making my own sounds so instruments that inspire and invite you to do that are a pleasure, no matter what type they are.
Tastiest keyboardist – i.e. not just soloing but also overall playing – currently working?
You refer to keyboard solos two times in this set of questions. This is cool and makes sense of course, but I find myself enjoying so many people that have such different approaches. Yeah, what is a jazz piano player or a rock or funk player without soloing? What is a synthesizer player without making sounds and understanding building blocks of sound? What of the amazing classical players that can only stray so far from the page but play with such feeling? All those things make for great keyboardists.

So, to go to your question literally, it may seem like picking the obvious, but the tastiest would have to be the likes of Herbie Hancock or Lonnie Smith because that word is a part of their music. Greatness like theirs that has been distilled over many decades is something behold.

A keyboard solo I never get tired of listening to is…
James Booker playing “On The Sunny Side of The Street” from Spider on the Keys. It’s a great solo, though some of my favorite-ness of it is his left hand. His time is so swingin’ and solid and feels so at ease while being very strong. Just great and so uplifting! Booker shows his Chopin, his blues, gospel, stride and his chops all in a swirling flash. And of course, if you ever think for a second that you can do something put on any Art Tatum. [Editor’s Note: Readers are also encouraged to check out Booker’s un-miss-able greatness on one of DI’s favorite albums, Junco Partner].
Preferred brand of keys? Why?
Well, as I mentioned above, I love my Moog and my Virus Ti 61 because of how well they are made, how advanced they are, and how playable they are. That said, the preferred brand depends on which hat I’m wearing. I’ve spun my hat around so many times my hair is falling out! I finally agreed to get all Nord in life when they added the weighted action to the Electro. It’s brilliant, weighs nothing, and feels great ‘neath the mitts. It’s super for instant, easy gig action. That said, I played the 1909 Pipe Organ at the Regency for the Edwardian Ball recently and that was incredible. Nothing touches that organic power.
Thelonius Monk, Bernie Worrell or Nicky Hopkins– which one gives you the biggest keyboard boner? What makes them SO sweet?
I’m still young enough that I can get three boners! Each of these guys is great and incisive in their moment in different ways.

Monk: One of the things that makes him so sweet is that he was so sweet! I’ll never forget those little lines he would say in the Round Midnight documentary: “Why doesn’t anybody wanna do what I wanna do!?” When it could’ve been a big charged thing, it was a like a universal question…taking those little tiny steps through the airport, everyone moving so fast around him. A transcendent genius so much in his own dimension and so important to all of us.

Bernie Worrell: Some people have the good fortune to be singular forces as players at a moment in time when there are revelations in musical instruments or tools. Bernie’s affiliations with Parliament and off-shoots were at a completely seminal moment in musical history, and Bernie, a conservatory trained musician, lined his brilliance up with his work on Moog synthesizers. In so doing, he created a de facto lexicon via personal style and instrument that is important right to this minute. Permutations thereof are at work all over the planet. I was playing my big daddy Moog Voyager in a Materialized rehearsal just recently. Thanks, Bernay!

Nicky Hopkins: Nicky Hopkins gets a deep bow because of his ability and great fortune to have been involved in all the absolutely amazing records and bands that he took part in and gives a soul. An A++ for living life. I find that wonderful. For me personally, I was listening to him since I began listening to rock ‘n’ roll records. I’ve hardly known music without him. While I never met him, he was one of those people who have a household name in your life and you appreciate them as such as family. I was truly sad when he died so young. He made great parts that were distinctive and fit with such personality without taking over the song. Plus, he was so rockin! He played the hell out of the Stones. Loved that guy.

One lesser known keyboardist folks should check out is…
Well, that all depends on what a person likes! If we’re talkin’ tasty in the straight-up organ player vibe, my buddy Wil Blades from right here in SF is really playin some great stuff and bustin out. He’s not toooo lesser known but I expect he’ll be a lot less lesser known soon. Great player that does his work!
What aspect of being a keyboardist always makes you happy?
The fact that every time you sit down anything is possible. That the sound at the bottom of the key can be as unpredictable or as gently expected as you allow yourself to become.