FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE
|Trouble playing tunes?|
– ONE SET (tracks 1-4) –
– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#51)
This gig is EXACTLY what I wanted to hear. Hot Damn.
Set opens with about 50min of trio bliss … the band explores some open space for the first 5min or so, seeming like they are on the brink of developing more of a groove but the sound resists … then Billy and John pull back and Chris emerges with this stellar acoustic bassline, the other two join in and this works into an incredible melodic improvisation – wow! This Improv moves for almost 10min before the trio breaks the sound down again into some Open Improv and minor Bass’n’Drums interplay — all pretty loose for the next few minutes … and then again, Chris gets us going on our way towards a more cohesive groove and by the time we reach 22min into this set these guys are just ROCKIN’! Then again, the mood simmers down and we’re treated to further open exploration although with a bit of a pulsing beat that Medeski tinkers over with an electric piano sound … Chris is bowing an odd little repetition … illyB is playing around with some of his toolbox toys … John closes this out with some trills then hits a heavy organ chord to begin the next Improv development with Chris jumping right on top of Medeski’s sound, but Wood has moved to the Hofner and is doing some of that awesome pick work we hear on a number of tunes, but he’s flying free here on top of the keys for a while before Medeski adds another sound to the mix — it’s 2min before illyB kicks in a beat on the kit and Chris opens up his playing to be a bit more groovy and interactive, John finds a melody (from where? Where do these sounds come from?!?), and they’ve now spontaneously created yet another incredible piece of music … and we’re only 30min into a set lasting 1hr 47min … oh these sweet sounds!
As the groove dissolves the band makes a more aggressive and electric exploration of Open sounds for a few minutes and just before the 36min mark of the set and this first track, illyB lands on some metallic percussive sounds that are the beginning of the next groove with Medeski whirling underneath like a wind tunnel … again, Chris emerges with yet another stellar line somewhat reminiscent of the tune Nocturne, but this is something new and different … Billy fades out as John comes in, then illyB begins a soft shuffle of sorts, searching for a rhythm, start/stop on the kit, and driving us along … then we spin into more open space which comes back to a groove c.36min via illyB on his metal toys tapping out a rhythm that Chris then joins, once again carving out the melodic structure of the improvisation, and then Medeski jumps on board this Norturne-ish sounding jam building — VERY cool shit! The pace picks up as we head towards 43min thanks to some swirls signalled by John, Billy and Chris both latch onto this energy and we’re in a bit higher gear now, still led by Wood’s incredible lead bass inventions (similar to how Chris controls the carnivalesque tune Back & Forth), but not to be outdone Medeski spins some craziness off the mellotron before the pace dramatically shifts once again c.45min, but slowing by half, with the keys and drums laying down a bed (very nice work from Billy at this point) which the bass just oozes into gradually, making itself known, but complimenting the groove perfectly. This latest groove has a couple shifts along the way, all very organic, as we ever so smoothly make our way to …
The entrance of Marc Ribot, guitar god extraordinaire! Ribot enters for track #2 of the recording and remains until the end of the set — so we get almost an hour of Ribot w/ MMW which is just the best. The guitar emerges through a caucophony of sound building out of that last Improv and as the track time moves towards 2min the sound settles down a bit, the trio establish a groove and Ribot begins to find his place in this spontaneous composition being developed. I think these 10min or so when the groove begins to the end of the track work into a single piece of music the quartet has created.
When Ned Rothenberg enters, everyone opens up to give him space without giving up their input — this gets almost tribal sounding over the Open Improv that welcomes Ned and his bass clarinet to the stage. A groove settles out of the drums-heavy opening with everyone connecting and just a real nice vibe here … 5min later the pace picks up as a new Improv develops — Chris is very much leading the affairs this evening, at least to my ears, being the strongest voice with everyone reacting mostly to his playing (most often it’s Medeski that fills this role, I think, and not that Chris doesn’t ever step up but it just seems even more so over this set). Ribot really steps up at this point too, and this “tune” builds to a wonderful crescendo — Ribot is just wailing around the 15min mark and keeps pushing and pushing over the next couple minutes! Medeski and Rothenberg are each wailing as well with Martin & Wood pushing the underlying rhythm more and more — BOOM! This explodes into more caucophony for a moment before settling into an eerie and wonderful interplay of the basses on stage: Stand-up and Clarinet. Wood and Ned sound like they’re having a lot of fun, with Chris beginning the exchange bowing his bass and Ned soloing over these sounds. Chris gradually moves into some finger plucking via some percussive beating of his wood, and Ned keeps reacting to Chris and Chris to Ned — check it out! As the two settle into a plodding interplay, illyB joins on the kit with a sparse beat, John and Marc add some chordal sounds and the creation continues to rise up in energy as we hit 22min in the track. The Improv gets more and more heavy — Billy is really beating those damn drums in this set and I dig it! He’s joining into that “bass” sound that is permeating the stage … oh yeah, this is a HEAVY THICK wall of sound from the quintet as we approach 25min — and there’s Ribot calling out above the thick bed! The build is peaking and peaking! After the sound hits the blind hill and comes down the quintet slides into yet another Nocturne-ish sounding Improv — this will take us towards the song the sound almost seems to have been moving towards all night. I love it when these Improv heavy sets seem to build into a song at the set’s end — it really ices the sound cake, if you know what I mean.
And so we hit the familiar opening chord of Dracula – a perfect choice. Ribot always adds a delicious flavour to this track, and Rothenberg’s bass clarinet sound fits so well with Dracula’s vibe — just listen, you’ll love it.
Hard to believe this is a festival set — usually this level of MMW-magic is saved for proper MMW gigs where they have their audience contained. I’m sure those ears in attendance at Big Ears soaked up these darkly groovy sounds with much pleasure … and now your ears can enjoy the sounds too, on this beautiful spring Friday Afternoon In The Universe …
enjoy the grooves,
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,