Tribute bands are largely the stuff of nostalgia, often as celebratory of the coifs and fashion don'ts of yesteryear as an artist's signature songs. The Bay Area's T.J. Kirk is a notable exception. Focusing not on one but a trio of icons, the quartet radically reinterprets the already-radical life's work of three African-American originals -- the latent genius pianist Thelonious Monk; Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the blind inventor of contraptions like the "trumpophone"; and one of the most idiosyncratic men in all of show business, James Brown. Each T.J. Kirk medley combines Monk's and Kirk's clustered hard-bop sensibilities with the Godfather's relentless rhythms; guitarists Will Bernard and John Schott never let their considerable expertise stand in the way of entertainment, and Charlie Hunter's customized eight-string makes a non-issue of the band's lack of bass and organ. Most of all, T.J. Kirk's choice of gurus assures that its music is consistently adventurous, and just a little bit bughouse.
-- James Sullivan
T.J. Kirk plays Friday, Nov. 15, at 9 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus. Tickets are $11; call 474-0365.