Kate and the Crocodiles Blends Genres

Alasdair Padman, Staff Reporter

Photo by Caroline Ashford Arya

Two communities, the students and faculty of Whitman College and Walla Walla community members, filled Hunter Conservatory on Friday, Sept. 15. They were gathered to hear a live performance of Kate and the Crocodiles, a three person band from Portland, Ore. The band’s singer, Kate Morrison, is a Whitman alumna, having graduated in 1995 with a degree in anthropology. The rest of the band consists of Gavin Bondy (of Pink Martini) on both french horn and trumpet, and Craig Bidondo on piano.

The trio started performing together in 2013, and developed their own style of blending jazz, pop and classical genres. This was particularly evident in their “Erlkonig Medley/Lullaby,” which mixed the works of Franz Schubert, Led Zeppelin and Phil Lynch, the studio music instructor for guitar here at Whitman College. In this piece, the story of a father whose son was being hunted in the woods captivated the audience. The villain of the piece had the voice of “Stairway to Heaven,” “Immigrant Song” and other hits from Led Zeppelin. 

Bondy. Photo by Caroline Ashford Arya

The band—and band name—originated right in the heart of Walla Walla. The owner of the Marcus Whitman Hotel is a close friend of Kate’s, and he hired her to play a gig at the hotel. She brought together a small group of mostly Whitman community members to form a band and called it “Kate and the Crocodiles,” because the owner of the hotel always called her “Cake,” while she called him “Kyle Crocodile.”

“[I put the band together] with the idea that I could bring musicians in and out as I wanted to, so it would always be my band and I always needed a band, but I could bring other people in, which was great until I got these guys [Bondy and Bidondo] and I really liked what we were doing and I thought, I kinda just want to stick with [them],” Morrison said.

This was not the only reason Kate and the Crocodiles was formed. They all saw a potential in the Northwest music scene to create a new blend of genres and style. The trio all expressed their love for the area, particularly the Portland music scene. Bidondo originally studied music at Biola University in Los Angeles. He remembers that once, the reason for going to LA was to play with the best. Now his view has changed.

“The best players in the world are all sitting around with no gigs, and they’re all going to jam sessions, hoping that someone will hear them … Here I am in Los Angeles and I feel like a fish out of water,” Bidondo recalled. “Every time I did a gig, all the musicians would talk about Portland and how cool it was, and how there was a vibrant, live music scene.”

Now, Bidondo has been working in Portland for the last 23 years with no intent on going back to LA.

Bondy expressed similar sentiments for the Northwest.

“It’s a good [music scene]” Bondy said. “It’s amazing how difficult it is in surprising places, like the music scene in LA is almost two dimensional compared to what we have [in] … Seattle and Portland and even in Walla Walla.”

The trio all echoed a love for the way the Northwest supports the originality of the music they are playing. 

“Best part of being a musician in the Northwest is that it seems like whatever you want to do is open,” Morrison said. “People are supportive of it … Which works well for me because I like all kinds of music. Like we’re putting together classical and rock in ways that I’ve never heard before, but it’s okay because we’re in the Northwest, and it’s sort of the genesis or place where a lot of things were born.”