– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#17 & #18 & #19)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
After a few weeks absence, I’m back with *3 shows* to hopefully make up for my lack of FAITU picks the past 2 weeks. So this week I’m sharing FAITU #17, #18 & #19, which are a run of shows in the U.S. Northeast from the fall 2002 tour (there was a 4th gig on that run as well, but it’s never circulated). There’s some repetition in song selection, considerable variance too, and just full-out incredible improvisation on display. Fall ’02 saw the opening improvisations stretching out more than ever before becoming a common tactic for starting a gig throughout the rest of MMW’s career. The tunes, mostly from The Dropper and Uninvisible albums (plus some other favourites), that are repeated see some interesting treatment, placement, and song segues – each gig offers something unique in this way in addition to each beginning with some hefty spontaneous composing … now to the replay tape …
** Thursday, September 26, 2002 **
– SET I –
Pulling noise from space, the band jumps into the abyss and builds such a solid groove by the 4min mark it has to be planned – doesn’t it? NOPE! On fire is what they are! @4:40 the intensity turns up to eleven, John hits the Clav HARD and things are digging deeper, then the touch lightens a bit while the hold of the groove remains. illyB is breaking it down while John is really messing around and Chris attempts to hold a through-line for the bass. @6:48 or so John twinkles a melody of something – what is that? Man, this opening improvisation is rich, rich, rich! Things lock in more firmly and the trio rumbles along nicely playing this brand new tune they just composed on the spot, and continue to compose until the beat keeps pulsing but John lays down some smothering key work until everything dissolves to nothing @9:49 where a quick hit of the keys begins a shift into our next journey, something more slow and methodic. Nice ride from Billy, smoky Wurlitzer (I think?) from John and Chris establishes a plunkily falling bassline. Suddenly, another new song written within the first 20min … wild. This slinky groove leads to more Open Improv exploration that eventually leads into the full on blues we’ve been feeling as we head on down to …
Lonely Avenue, one of MMW’s oldest covers, this Ray Charles classic never disappoints – and the trio’s treatment of this tune is always raunchy and nasty. This performance lives up to the hype, with John seeming especially murky in his organ sounds which bleeds over nicely into the spacey introduction for the next tune, taking up the last minute of this track before it rolls over to track #3 and we are …
Uninvisible leading to heady beats and dancing – oh yeah, that fuzzy bassline comes in, so HEAVY you can *feel* it, John’s making some atmosphere, and then illyB kicks the beat. We vamp, just loving that bassline, and now John comes in with his main melody playing off Chris, and the groove feels so solid. SO SOLID. LIKE CONCRETE. But fluid, like water … out the end of Uninvisible Pappy Check appears and moves ever so nicely into the set closing Partido Alto – some of these transitions between tunes are just so good.
– SET II –
Some open space is explored and John’s honking the Melodica a bit, and just towards the end of the track you start to realize they’re about to hit a Ten Dollar High, and the price is right my friends – cheap but quality. Love how this builds and builds with John on the organ into kind of a hammy classic ending which burbles into a Bass Solo descending into the eerily groovy Shacklyn Knights where a short Drum Outro leads us out to hear the sweet Creole Love Call (that’s John’s part) coupled with the bassline from Your Name Is Snake Anthony (thank you, Chris) all while illyB kicks it down. This medley arrangement appeared during the spring ’02 tour with the Uninvisible Horns led by Steven Bernstein, but has remained as the way MMW bring Snake Anthony to the live stage (aside from a July ’02 performance where Col. Bruce actually tells the Snake Anthony story … kind of).
A Drum Solo runs out of Snake Anthony’s Creole Call and begins the driving groove of the 2nd half of the set, exploring some nice kit work from illyB before he just starts pounding it and we are on Fire! Hendrix-style! And, where there’s Fire, there’s Smoke (or vice versa, usually) and that Smoke evaporates smoothly into The Dropper – damn, I wish I could catch this tune live! – and that drops crazily into Felic, which is one of the wilder tunes from The Dropper album, not to mention from MMW’s overall repertoire. Felic is just nuts! The charge of Blue Pepper brings us back to more earthly planes, sorta, to wrap up the set.
And for the first of 3 nights in a row, we get an I Wanna Ride You, this one fully electric, preceded by a brief Organ Intro from John – love when he does that. The next 2 nights will find this tune in the encore slot again and again, but with some twists …
** Friday, September 27, 2002 **
– SET I –
Not so noisy as the previous night’s opening, instead it’s more moody and murky – it’s like John’s just laying his arms on the keys at times, maybe. Clattering percussion from illyB, some bird calls, and Chris is doing some high-over-the-bridge bowing, moving back onto the neck. Thumps from Billy as this Open Improv keeps veering away from groove in favour of sound exploration. At some point in here you either start chuckling or gain a deep focus – or both. After the 4min mark the band starts to begin an inkling towards something more melodic …
When track #2 starts the band had already laid the ground work and they jump into a groove that just keeps pushing and developing. Man, these cats listen to each other so well. Subtle responses and twists. We’re into bluesy territory here, but post-5min that really becomes evident. @7:35 the groove breaks down to like an elemental level, still moving, tweaking – cool sounds from John in here as well as what Chris is pulling out. Billy moves over to some percussive toys. @8:19 Chris begins a weird strum and things begin to get a little stranger before heading out into even more open space – @10min things get real loose and over the next 6min or so the band follows each other away from any semblance of composition and melody. We’re once again in chuckle/focus space, and all you can do is enjoy the ride. Just as the track reaches the end there’s some great interplay developing between Chris and Billy, then Billy drops out and we get some alone time with Chris and his bass – music to my ears. The solo begins delicately out of the space he and Billy were just sharing. This turns into a nice solo, well built and a great journey that almost never gets into that wild space Chris reaches until one minor outburst just before 2min, which he reins in, then begins that nice walk down the line …
And we’re moving into Shacklyn Knights – ooh this is a weird and groovy tune. It’s got a haunting quality to it that doesn’t really reach a height, the developing groove sounding like it might fall apart, but then vrooosh, the tune is rollicking along in full force now beginning a run of tunes to keep you dancing till set break. The Knights leads to a Drum Solo > C-Jam Blues > Buster Rides Again – this run is hoppin’ quick with energy. Then a Big Time > Jelly Belly pairing closes the set in a fine PHAT groove celebration.
– SET II –
There’s that HEAVY bassline again: Uninvisible kicks off the set with a bang! The tune gives way to some Open Improv exploration that finds itself nicely flowing into Lifeblood – oh, it feels good when illyB starts that weird shuffle. In an interesting and unique move Lifeblood peels away into a Bowed Bass Improv Solo, accompanied for a while by some scattering sounds from John and Billy, until it’s just Chris who eventually drops the bow and begins hammering his way to another Ten Dollar High; $10 and solid grooving later we’re hitting a Pappy Check and it once again, just like in the previous night’s 1st set, leads into Partido Alto – but listen to each night’s take on this move. The percussive Partido opens into a Drum Solo, not too long before Billy drops the Fire beat and the other 2 jump in … fizzling down to Smoke for closing the set – I love the slink of Smoke’s feel.
In the encore slot Organ Intro > I Wanna Ride You takes us out again, only this time John moves to Melodica and we get an Acoustic Outro to the song – the guys basically play into the taper’s mics, so it sounds SUPER SWEET! As always, WE LOVE THE TAPERS and are so grateful they’re out there …
** Saturday, September 28, 2002 **
– SET I –
Billy starts us off with an open beat, then John ZAPS our brains harshly for a moment, letting it fizzle out then another zap, not so intense as the first, some sounds from outer space, then it seems a little while before Chris contributes with a simple two plunk pulse. Billy has moved to the kit by now with this broken shuffle. John is still in outer space. Chris starts adding more notes and colour to his line. Billy tries finding a beat, something to drive things a little more. Just after 3min it sounds like things are jiving into a more cohesive whole, then it stops briefly, Billy kicks in a quicker beat, and what was just happening in a darker space takes on a more positive vibe, still coloured with dark undertones – these last 3 nights have started with incredible exploration of some dark places. 5min and my head is boppin’, but shucking to the side with jabs and bleeps, after 30secs the groove digs deeper – like all 3 of them, you can hear, lay into it. @6:40 we seem to be heading away from groove, full-on oppressive keys, and then what’s this? Oh, @7:25 illyB comes in nice and light, John hits the Wurly, (I think?), and this has a nice comforting vibe coupled with some slightly unsettling sounds – is that Chris making that banging pipe sound? I think so … thumping, then it takes a bit more life before there he is in a deeper register, filling in the bottom. By 10min the pace has quickened as the piece that began just over 3min ago develops into a 2nd section. The band rides this out, just nailing it, pushing the groove further, to the point where it starts to splinter while still holding tight – damn, I love those moments! – there’s almost like a brief swing around 18min, just before the groove does pull apart and things get a wee wacky for a minute or so, swelling into a noise of sorts undercut with some gospel pulse, until we are enjoying a mighty fine …
Philly Cheese Blunt! Suddenly this seems like the culmination of the past 20min, leading us to this revelation, this gospel. Preach it to me!
The Dropper > Open Improv/Intro > Sequel is one of the most interesting sections of these three gigs. The explosion into open space out of a killer The Dropper leads *very* uniquely into a weird open intro into Sequel – so Sequel, instead of beginning in a high energy space, starts in a more subdued way. VERY cool. Then a heady Big Time closes out the set with some head boppin’.
– SET II –
2nd set begins with DJ RPM sitting in for a Ten Dollar High, which is fun but he’s not asked to stick around for the rest of the set …
Then Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho charges up the crowd and leads a run > Think > Drum Solo, followed by a jivin’ Blue Pepper – these are dance numbers, folks! Shake it! Things get a little sultry with a stellar Bemsha Swing/Lively Up Yourself medley – like, can you hear these tunes separately now, without hearing traces of the other? I can’t.
Then the set ends with an Uninvisible one-two punch in Pappy Check > the title track, featuring some cool playing getting us from the Check into Uninvisible territory to close the set.
And then a familiar encore … just before John slams in with his organ, we hear Billy say, “This one’s called ‘I Wanna Ride You!’” And we’re off …
These 3 gigs showcase nicely what the band can do with similar tunes, which they tend to focus on for a tour or stretch of time, and how playful and adventurous their approach can be. But we also see the advent of larger sections of Improvisation, a welcome development in their gigs … the band just gets tighter and more daring …
enjoy the grooves,
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD
Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Set 1: Improv > Improv > Improv > Open Improv > Lonely Avenue > Uninvisible > Pappy Check > Partido AltoSet 2: Open Improv > Ten Dollar High > Bass Solo > Shacklyn Knights > Drum Outro > Creole Love Call (w/ Snake Anthony bass line) > Drum Solo > Fire, Smoke > The Dropper > Felic > Blue Pepper
Encore: Organ Intro > I Wanna Ride You
– SET I (tracks 1-5) –
– SET II (tracks 6-17) –
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD
Orpheum Theatre, Boston, MA
Friday, September 27, 2002
Set 1: Open Improv > Improv > Open Improv > Bass Solo > Shacklyn Knights > Drum Solo > C-Jam Blues > Buster Rides Again, Big Time > Jelly BellySet 2: Uninvisible > Open Improv > Lifeblood > Bowed Bass Improv/Solo > Ten Dollar High > Pappy Check > Partido Alto > Drum Solo > Fire, Smoke
Encore: Organ Intro > I Wanna Ride You** w/ acoustic outro
– SET I (tracks 1-8) –
– SET II (tracks 9-16) –
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD w/ DJ RPM
State Theatre, Portland, ME
Saturday, September 28, 2002
Set 1: Improv > Improv > Philly Cheese Blunt, The Dropper > Open Improv/Intro > Sequel, Big TimeSet 2: Ten Dollar High#, Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho > Think > Drum Solo, Blue Pepper, Bemsha Swing/Lively Up Yourself, Pappy Check > Uninvisible
Encore: Organ Intro > I Wanna Ride You*# w/ DJ RPM on turntables
* w/ acoustic outro
– SET I (tracks 1-6) –
– SET II (tracks 7-15) –
Posted on May 27, 2016, in Jazz, Live Music, Music and tagged 2002, Billy Martin, bittorrent downloads, bt.etree.org, Chris Wood, DJ RPM, FAITU, Friday Afternoon In The Universe, Improvisation, Jazz, John Medeski, Medeski Martin & Wood, MMW, Stream Music, The Shack Project. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on FAITU#17+#18+#19.