FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE
|Trouble playing tunes?|
– ONE SET (tracks 1-12) –
– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#41)
We are LUCKY to have this show! First (known) gig of 1994 gets the year going in an exploratory nature showcasing a young band searching for their sound while already having the reigns to control what they’re already able to accomplish. These early years of MMW are full of fire, and it’s fantastic to hear, but it’s only the beginning of so much more music … however, it’s fun to revel in these early grooves … onto the show!
– ONE SET –
A new tune begins the first set of the year, “Knoxville Beat”, and this is the first of 2 known performances, the 2nd being the following night. The temp title comes from this debut happening in Knoxville, and it is a cool rushed BEAT! Chris has a really cool busy line at spots coupled with this lengthy pulse to get the tune going, while Medeski lays it out fast as well and Billy drives it all. Billy keeps the drive up, but the keys and bass both drop to a more sparse groove, and so it goes … VERY cool to hear this. We had 3/12/1994 for a while and had presumed this tune on that show to be an improvisation since we had nothing to compare it with, but once we got a copy of this 3/11 gig I realized this is indeed a tune — and now it sorta sounds like one, eh? This breaks down into an Open Improv that kind of extends the tune’s outro until …
It’s A Jungle In Here, the song from album of same name, pops up, a tune that morphs over the next year to become the song Sequel, which is released on the album FAITU. Again, comparing to the 3/12/1994 gig, you can hear John refer to this tune as “It’s A Jungle In Here” so as far as the band was concerned, that was what they were still playing at this point…and while the tune is certainly not as clean as Sequel became, it sounds like the same tune but a little looser … at least to my ears … I think IAJIH might be missing some of the more structured breakdown moments that were incorporated into Sequel…maybe? I dunno …
Up next, “Screeching Flamingos”, dubbed such due to the screeching nature of Chris’ bow action and the fact that the tune’s first known performance is in this venue, Flamingo’s, the tune is a HEAVY TRIBAL VIBE! Wow! An incredible pulse to this groove, but we only have a couple of recorded versions, unfortunately: this and the next night, March 12/1994, where it opens the 2nd set. It almost sounds like a distant cousin to Worms (which we’ll hear from shortly), but is most certainly its own beast. Cool to hear, and again was thought to be an improvisation when all we had was 3/12/1994, but we now know it to be composed.
Shack, the tune, is up next and stretches into a VERY nice groove. Never disappointed with this tune, interesting the band abandons it over the next few years, but any time they visit the tune it’s worth the listen to this groove!
John introduces the band (NOT Billy), and lets us know we’ll be enjoying some Worms next, off their latest album (It’s A Jungle In Here) — great album! You should get it if you don’t have it! And so Worms offers us some more “screeching” bow work from Chris, albeit in a slightly more friendly groove (interesting to term Worms a “friendly” groove, but compared to “Screeching Flamingos”, it is!). Worms opens into a Drum Solo, which is normal for the tune — it’s the length and explosiveness of the solo that seems to vary from version to version, although some forego a solo entirely in favour of more wacky playfulness from the players. Anyhoo, this solo erupts quite largely and circles back to the Worms riff to take us out into some Open Improv before landing in this weekly series’ namesake, Friday Afternoon In The Universe — I just love the looseness of this wickedly groovy tune. The way it congeals from the ether, grooves, and then separates, FAITU is top knotch for me in MMW’s composed arsenal — it’s like a micro-sample of MMW’s macro-grooves, a snapshot of MMW captured in a single tune. As the separation ensues a Bass Solo rises allowing Chris to beat and groove his way into Chubb Sub, and it gets grooving in a real cool way.
A short pause, and then Medeski kicks in on the clavinet for a few minutes by himself, at the end of track#9, rolling over to the next track where we get to enjoy the Pakalolo — an excellent choice, not as expansive as some versions get around ’94-’95, before the tune fades out of the repertoire (thanks to those who requested in during the 2011 request gigs!), but still this is always worth hearing. I guess it might be cut short as a result of the trio migrating into some Improv that slides oh so nicely into Chinoiserie — you gotta hear this sequence of tracks!
Another brief pause and John introduces the band, as was his role at this time, and then announces they’ll be closing with a King Sunny Ade tune, Moti Mo, and this is always a sweet vibe with which to close a gig … some might prefer something more upbeat, but the beauty and intensity of Moti Mo would win for me every time …
Cool to hear a couple of new tunes in this show, tunes that are a little more abstract than some of the groovier numbers but unfortunately never stuck around in the live repertoire very long, and yet THANKS TO THE TAPERS we have them captured to hear, lo these 23 years later, on this relaxing spring Friday Afternoon In The Universe …
enjoy the grooves,
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE
|Trouble playing tunes?|
– SET I (tracks 1-5) –
– SET II incomplete (tracks 6-8) –
– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#16)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
This show was a real treasure to listen to, by which I mean I found some special unique musical items that should prove VERY interesting for those of you interested in such stuff. I’d made some notes years ago when listening to this show and noted a couple of parts that had sounded familiar to me at the time, and then listening to this show over this past week I’ve paid fresh attention to those passages and discovered some melodies and music used here that don’t really surface again as more complete songs until years later in MMW’s performing history. Let’s dig into this week’s FAITU pick and find these treats along with the fun of hearing a young MMW in the early stages of developing their onstage explorations … this show is a perfect example of why this band is so rewarding with repeated listens, and how rich the music is …
– SET I –
Complete chaos! That’s how things begin — it’s MADNESS! Like they’re trying to scare the weak-hearted, thin the crowd … was there even much of a crowd? ’94 MMW in Atlanta? Sounds like a small group … this isn’t the band’s first visit to the venue though and the crowd seems engaged.
@3:50 this opening track takes on a nice funky feel — Chris’ bassline is super fun! This is the beginning of something more though, leading somewhere … to the first buried treasure my listening dug up this past week >>>
OH WOW! @6:45 the melody here that John strikes on the keys is something that eventually made it’s way into an acoustic tune, Ballade In C Minor, ‘Vergessene Seelen’, which the band didn’t debut until April 2007! That melody was sitting around that long … incredible. They bat this riff around and play inside its context for the next few minutes, getting funky and circling back to that head. Unreal … can’t believe I just found this melody — again! The only other place I’ve found it since it became an actual tune in ’07 was in the opening of an acoustic gig from April 2000, so it seemed at that point the band (or John?) felt the melody belonged more in the acoustic realm, tried it, and then left it for 7 more years before flushing out a more proper composition and arrangement, which was then released on the live acoustic album Free Magic, released in 2012, and the subsequent acoustic tours that fall in the spring of 2013 found the band just nailing Ballade In C Minor, ‘Vergessene Seelen’ and seemingly loving it. Haven’t heard from the tune since … mind you, the band’s schedule has been pretty sporadic these past few years as well … but interesting that ‘Vergessene Seelen’ translates into ‘Forgotten Souls’ because this melody is oft forgotten … anyhoo, we’re led back into more open space that gets pretty wacky for a few minutes before settling down into some calm open space with just some subdued keys, one long bowed note from Chris, and sprinkle of gentle percussive sounds from illyB … this all leads nicely into the first proper tune of the gig, 20min into the show …
Shack twinkles in, grows very smooth and organically, interrupted by the keys that closed out the preceding improvisational section, and then you’re suddenly shuffling along with the Shack groove and it feels good. The band brings the sound way down and intimate at times and then they just erupt into the celebratory groove — fun listen.
Billy lets loose with some quick scattered metallic percussive sounds before moving to the kit to drop the beat a little more proper, @1min Chris plunks in heavily and the mood is getting cheery folks … John weighs in tentatively with some sprinkles from his Clav, starts working it a bit more frenetically but still underscoring the groove that illyB & Wood are laying down … the mood is getting more ebullient yet again … tension building a bit … groove pulsing … a break here and there — will it kick in? … not yet … then just past 3min the Clav sprinkles bring in the happiness, you can feel it, but they’re still fuckin’ with us … and @4:20 (nice timing!) the swirl comes in and WE’RE SO HAPPY! And the happy feeling just keeps growing until it unravels over the last couple minutes … breaking down further and further … until it’s time for a wonderful …
Friday Afternoon In The Universe … oh yeah. Love the open tinkering that gets the piece moving — this is a composition of the utmost gravitas, if I could get serious for a moment. FAITU, also the moniker for this weekly series, is a song the band has never overplayed throughout their career and always delivers. It’s an incredible balance between that open exploration, but composed, and the discovery of a sweet, sweet riff/groove, also pre-written. But it sounds like a surprise every Friday Afternoon I spend In The MMW Universe …
Wiggly’s Way wiggles its way in, like really wiggles, and finally arrives to the full groove which still maintains this dragging pulse to it … like the beat is gonna fall behind, but doesn’t … how can it? *It’s* the beat! A great groove to wrap up the set — although you can hear the guys wonder if they’ve reached break time or not, and then, surprisingly to modern MMW listeners, John (not Billy) speaks up and introduces the band and whatnot and says they’ll be back after a break.
– SET II – INCOMPLETE
Unfortunately, we don’t have a full recording of the 2nd set, but what we do have is really great to hear and also provides the 2nd treasure I found while re-listening this past week. But first …
The set opens in fine form with a song I think we all love (you will if you don’t know it yet) and can’t understand why it fell by the wayside: PAKALOLO! Hits smooth in musical and herbal form … and always welcome. As far as we know from circulating recordings the tune debuted in spring of ’94 and was a treat from the start — this version does not disappoint.
Syeeda’s Song Flute, that oddity-to-my-ears in an MMW set, is up next and the band delivers a hard hitting version of such a sweet tune which busts out its ending into some Open Improvisation before finding a groove @5:42 on this last track which again sets the stage for a melody we don’t hear again until years later. The groove moves along and just past 9min something I’m calling “Mystery Gus” sneaks into the groove and then the melody hits in full @10:05 — WHAT IS THAT? DO YOU KNOW?! If you know, please leave a comment! The reason I call it “Mystery Gus” is because before this week I hadn’t placed that familiar melody, which I’ve now realized is a melody that John plays during instrumental takes on Whatever Happened To Gus at 4 acoustic gigs in early 1999 (1/14, 1/16, 3/20 & 3/23) — see The Shack Project 1999 page page for links to the shows.
Anyway, I’ve never been able to place that melody which I think belongs to some old jazz tune or familiar tune of some kind — it’s always eluded me. John mixes it into Gus the same way he mixes Creole Love Call into Your Name Is Snake Anthony. At this ’94 gig the melody drives the improvisation around it — or is it composed? We don’t really have enough of ’94 to know what else may have happened with this melody, or the Vergessene piece, but hearing that stuff in this gig this past week was muchos fun for this MMW addict …
enjoy the grooves,