FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE
|Trouble playing tunes?|
– ONE SET (tracks 1-8) –
– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#49)
Was anybody at this gig? We have notes indicating this *may* have been an opening set for Col. Bruce & The Aquarium Rescue Unit, but not sure — it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s where this gig’s energy came from! (And there is a small announcement blurb at the very end of the Moti Mo track where the guy (sound like Al Schnier from moe., but that can’t be right) begins announcing the next act, but it cuts before you hear the band name! HA!) It’s honestly been a while since I listened to this show, not wanting to spoil the early gig listens with too many listens, but I’m listening right now and the band is HOT and on FIRE. The set *may* also be incomplete, but there’s 80min+ music here, so that seems pretty accurate if they were the opener for Col Bruce + ARU.
Recording begins on pretty much the first chaotic note of It’s A Jungle In Here, from the album by the same name — which is a slightly more edgy sounding and raw version of the tune that eventually becomes Sequel on the album FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE. The trio bite right into this early MMW-groove and we can hear why we were all captured by these guys early on — a feel that matures with age, but for me contains no less intensity — and IAJIH is just raw energy getting this set rolling on a high note.
Beeah is up next, sliding smoothly right out of the final notes of IAJIH. Again, Beeah benefits from the band’s young hunger in this performance and they just attack the groove, making perhaps for a more intense-than-usual mid-section of Beeah where things really heat-up. The outro section of the tune has some beautiful early work from Wood on his stand-up bass, until we hit that pulsing section that wraps-up the tune tightly.
Mr. John Coltrane’s vibe enters the set next in the form of Syeeda’s Song Flute, also knodding to the band’s early name “Coltrane’s Wig” — a name John recently mentioned that Col. Bruce was rather fond of. Syeeda’s has a slightly slower tempo than the tune takes on in later years, but Chris’ bass has a PHAT sound giving some real ummph to the tune.
The aftermath of Syeeda’s yields Worms! One of the more wacky melodies in the band’s arsenal, Worms is always welcome for its crazy vibe — I’ve only ever caught it once, but it was WILD! These early gigs see numerous performances, since the band’s repertoire was only so big, but they are most certainly already playing the game of “how can we make this version differ?”, and we love that attitude! Worms doesn’t quite finish properly, but rather bursts into an Open Outro exploring the space in the room, until the familiar Chubb Sub groove begins and take us swirling into a dance party. At this point, Chubb Sub hasn’t quite found its niche as a closing or encore tune, so we find it more mid-set at times making for some cool vibes and energy.
Next John steps to the mic (he used to do that) and introduces the impending Monk/Marley medley they’re about to bust out. So first we get Chris showing us his early chops on the stand-up as the Bass Solo plods along until he hits that wonderful line and Bemsha Swing is, well, in full swing! Love these early versions of the medley too, with that young energy and the keys’ sounds at this time … cool shit …
Listen Here is up next, a tune by Eddie Harris — you might know another tune he’s known for, Freedom Jazz Dance, made famous by Miles Davis; also played by Jerry Garcia’s Legion of Mary group, for those of the Dead persuasion. MMW’s take on Listen Here adds bit more pep to the tune compared to the original by Harris — along with a sinister Beeah tease c.6:43-7:03 — but it’s such a fun melody and boppin’ tune! Shame MMW never really played it much … I think this is the only known performance … fits perfectly with the MMW sound though. And gonna have to check out some more Eddie Harris! For now, you can Listen Here for his version:
Closing the show, as it often does when it makes an appearance, King Sunny Ade’s Moti Mo takes the crowd out, once again with John acting as the reluctant announcer … I’ve never had the pleasure of catching this tune live, which is pretty rare at this point, but in the early-mid ’90s it was frequently played (cool version with horns, led by Steven Bernstein, on the album IT’S A JUNGLE IN HERE). It’s always patient, it’s always beautiful, and it’s always a welcome vibe: MOTI MO! Here’s some interesting tidbits about King Sunny Ade’s versions, which are more appropriately titled Mo Ti Mo:
Originally recorded in 1974 in Ade’s first self released record, the song is a plea to his fans, “My people gather round me, this journey I am on, is it carrying me forward or backward?”
The original chorus in 1974 was Mio Mo meaning, “I don’t know.” When the song was re-released for Island Records on the cusp of international success, the chorus was changed to Mo Ti Mo which means, “Now I know.”
… and you can check out that 1983 version right here:
The mic moves to Billy at the end of the show as he thanks the crowd, etc … There’s some weird stuff right at the end of the last track, where we hear that announcer I mentioned earlier welcoming the following mystery act (Col & ARU?), but it cuts and that’s that …
Most of us into MMW love these early years … and this show is a perfect example as to why, so tune in or download and enjoy an old school 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,