On the surface, the title of veteran guitarist Steve Knight’s crisp, fluid and dynamic trio debut Persistence sounds like a reflection on the many years it sometimes takes artists to break through, establish themselves and record that fantastic memorable debut album.
But if we delve a little deeper into the story behind the hypnotic, soulful and explosively percussive title track, we learn that this intricate piece took a whopping 18 months to complete. Now contrast that with the funky, strutting “Real Type Thing,” a gem from the project that perhaps best showcases the vibrancy of the groove created by his Chicago based guys Justin Peterson (bass) and Jeff Stitley (drums).
This one is every bit as dynamic and infectious, yet it only took 20 minutes – and he wrote it while heading to the studio. It’s a fascinating dichotomy that perfectly captures the mercurial nature of inspiration- and Knight’s powerful work ethic, which led to what can only be called a stunning debut that calls to mind the influences of the guitarist’s heroes Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and George Benson.
The foundational Benson vibe is most prominent on one of the collection’s hottest cookin’ jams “Chop Chop,” which true to its title captures fast paced lightning that keeps darting around before you can catch it in a bottle. Knight complements a series of ultra-melodic and inventively rhythmic originals (the best of which are the sparkling swinger “Just Add Meaning” and edgy, bustling “Sharps Disposal” with crafty jazz twists on two 90’s pop classics – Tom Petty’s sassy, seductive “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and the anthemic ballad “Change The World.”
The story behind this album is one of pandemic musical silver linings, as the trio only began playing during the lockdown, presenting weekly jams from Knight’s backyard – which became so popular that they soon evolved into full on concerts in the park across the street. The tunes that came to populate Persistence were all fan favorites from this time where music proved a necessary and cathartic healer. Hopefully, with a little more persistence, Knight’s trio will continue to evolve and dazzle us.