Knower drop the knowledge at Scala

"If you have to ask, you don't know by now," is perhaps an apt line from a Red Hot Chili Peppers song when it comes to the LA-duo Knower, whose sold-out show at Scala as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival surprised some. It's rumoured that at a recent meeting of music promoters in New York, only a couple, notably John Cumming, had heard of the band. Now road-toughened from an extensive touring schedule with the aforementioned Chilis, the word is out on this furious punk-funk pair's hyperactive blend of post-ironic jazz fusion that sounds like the bastard child of Giorgio Moroder and Weather Report – with the angelic, pitch-perfect vocals of Genevieve Artadi providing a focal point in the muso melee.

KNOWER-Scala-Emile-Holba-2

Knower are the brainchild of drummer/producer Louis Cole and singer Artadi (also an edgy solo artist), yet it's Cole's sardonic humour that pervades and punctures any sense of self-importance here. Initially dressed in a puffy pink jacket, black-and-white zebra-pattered leggings and an immoveable pair of shades, he soon dispenses with the jacket to sit bare-chested at his prominently placed drum kit. A huge gold chain, with a doughnut attached to it, hung thickly around his neck, adding to the uncomfortable notion that a brilliant fusion drummer had come dressed as Vanilla Ice. Of course, none of this is to be taken seriously, neither is his opening gambit on the mic, "this is going to be fucking awesome", which gets a laugh and notches up the excitement levels.

The Scala's bass-resonant space can create a wall of sub-sonic frequencies and indeed bassist Sam Wilkes was plundering low-end bombs from the off, grinning up at Cole as the pair batted polyrhythmic grooves back-and-forth all night. Double keyboards were supplied by Jacob Mann and Dennis Hamm, the latter's own following thanks to his long-running work with fellow LA fusion-funk maverick Thundercat (also in attendance tonight). Here his elongated solos explored the densely clustered harmonies within Knower's often-intense songs with long-fingered dexterity. Guitarist Thom Gill proved both exciting fret-shredder and soulful balladeer, bringing the over-excited crowd to a hushed silence during an unexpected (and unnamed) voice and guitar solo spot that revealed subtle and sophisticated harmonies and some welcome respite from the synth onslaught.

KNOWER-Scala-Emile-Holba-9

That said Knower now have some hits in the form of the poignant 'Hanging On' and the devastatingly effective 'Overtime' with its continually descending bass riff that had the crowd moshing and grinning in equal measure. If musicianship seems to have found a new respect, away from punk's original 'year zero' attitude, then the likes of Knower are poking fun at new forms of pomposity that can sometimes be prevalent today. They're also putting that other 'F' word, 'fun', (which also upsets the jazz police) back front and centre in their music. Tonight, the crowd were in on the joke, to which Knower provided so many killer punchlines.

– Mike Flynn

– Photos by Emile Holba for EFG London Jazz Festival

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