Kittyhawk, a quartet of California musicians that appeared at the Cellar Door last night (and continues tonight), soars, glides, occasionally dives and consistently bursts full force upon audiences not yet geared to its dynamic motors, the two chapman Sticks wielded by Daniel Bortz and Paul Edwards.
The Chapman Stick, named after Emmett Chapman who invented it six years ago, looks like a gigantic fretboard in search of a body; it combines bass and guitar, but its 10 strings are tapped, so that it's played more like a piano than a guitar. On "Never Once," Edwards played the bass lines with his left hand while his right essayed a melody in subtle counterpoint. The instruments offers full-blown chords, delicate harmonics and stinging lead lines at the touch of single player's hands. Its resonant tones can mimic a bass, guitar or electric piano, adding to its potential.
Kittyhawk's main drawback is a tendency to splash down in the previously well-tread waters of rock fusion music through saxophonist Richard Elliot, who on "Chinese Fire Drill" sounded like an uninhibited Gato Barbieri.
Bortz provided for the evening's highlight during an uncharacteristic excurlight during an uncharacteristic excursion on cello titled "Forgotten Folk Song," where he developed a haunting melody line and then explored its far reaches by blowing, plucking, strumming and even occasionally slapping his cello. In a night of churning rhythms and high energy, it provided the calm within an otherwise exciting storm.