FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE
|Trouble playing tunes?|
– SET I (tracks 1-10) –
– SET II (tracks 11-20) –
– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#38)
This show is SUPER cool! MMW@Tonic=GOOD VIBES!
Throw in Logic and Brahim, and the stakes raise a little higher with the quintet delivering incredible sets of exploration. This really is an AMAZING show. There’s groove in here, but there’s also a considerable amount of out-playing even in the tracks I’ve left noted as Improv, not Open Improv — it’s a spacey show at times. But, the band certainly grounds you in groove at other times, with each set landing in an End Of The World Party (Just In Case) tune.
– EARLY SHOW –
The set has a pretty dark overtone throughout, at least to my ears …
A smattering of sounds starts us off on the fileset’s track #2: John banging the piano keys and Chris plunking, as well as Brahim, I think, while illyB colours with some percussive shakes and tinkles (maybe that’s all bass though and Brahim is on percussion?), and Billy eventually moving to the kit initiating some more focused drive towards something more with John on organ now … but the group is staying pretty abstract until just after 3min as that boils down to a little light groove on this opening track with John back on piano (is that Logic colouring the background a bit?). Billy has a nice open beat working, and yeah, there’s Logic in there now for sure — I think that is just Chris on the bass, but the sound is weird to my ears … this all breaks down again into an Open Improv exploring the space in the room for a couple of minutes. Whereas the opening exploration seemed to lead to that melodic section of the track, this latter exploration at the track’s end seems like the musicians are searching …
The search is over when we roll to track #3 which develops very nicely from a sparse groove, where the sums of the parts strangely add up to the groove and by half way we’re in a full on composition with all those parts having jived and shaken to morph into a really solid musical conversation speaking right to me …
The Improv on track #4 breaks back down to a heavy percussive feel, John’s on piano hitting it with some force — tinkering a cool 3rd Stone tease c.1:40min into this groove. The interplay between illyB and Brahim with the beats is hoppin’! By the time we get to around 3:45min Billy moves to the kit and John starts playing a little more fluidly, less harshness, Logic is sratching — which is oddly fitting in well — and Chris has been holding it altogether, as he often does. Oh, this is a real nice tune/improvisation … John is taking us for quite a ride on the piano … eventually this simmers low with a sliding muddy line from Chris, more Logic scratches with some samples, and the illyB/Brahim shaking us down to quiet …
Some further space explorations start track #5, John staying on piano but fairly abstract and somebody is on the talking drum (illyB?) … John’s ivories get a little more fluttery, almost pretty, but then a harshness comes in from other angles a bit, bordering on breaking apart, or perhaps introducing a new groove development … this goes on for a few minutes, more shots of sounds that are perhaps not so welcoming mixed with other more soothing sounds … this all pulls together just after 5min into moving together more after the open playing … it’s a slow build, but very nice … cool keys from Mr. Medeski … Billy moves back to the kit c.11min and Chris is plunking out a groovy foundation, Brahim helping the beat and Logic is filling in some of the gaps — gotta give him credit for good listening, that’s for sure; I’m not a big DJ guy, but Logic is by far my favourite. Anyway, this all builds up into a super solid groove/composition with excellent interplay across the stage.
A Bass’n’Drums jam emerges on track #6 from the aftermath of the previous groove, and leads us once again into very cool build as a unit — everyone is really listening, and that’s something I really dig about MMW and who they generally pick to sit-in.
Then a gospel groove begins track #7, and in retrospect it has the same feel as the cover of Suspicious Minds the band busted out in 2012. Anyway, this is a welcome sunshine feel to an otherwise very-night-time-feeling set of music … again Logic is sneaking into some cool spaces and Medeski is moving from organ to piano, Chris is just boppin’ us along with Billy/Brahim — these two are working like one guy with four hands, which reminds me of how Billy and Cyro Baptista groove together. VERY nice! (Brahim has sat in w/MMW a few times over the years, to great effect.) When this groove closes with a bang …
We start to hear some more open space exploration at the start of track #8, led mainly by the percussion sounds … Medeski comes in with sssssome lasers from outer space … and we are heading into a FREAKIN’ KILLER TUNE! It’s like the vibe of the entire set has built to this moment (hindsight = 20/20). Just after 3min you hear the melody tinkering on the oud — oh, man, this is such a great tune! Just listen … the oud has such a cool sound! The tune, Hegaz, I think was written by Brahim and is also played in Club d’Elf, a band Brahim also plays in sometimes.
(Those of you who’ve been around a while might recall I was calling this song Ziphim back when these shows were happening because it really reminded me of a slightly altered version of that Zorn tune. Then I just changed it to “Brahim Boogie” after I was convinced it wasn’t Ziphim because I didn’t know the tune.)
Billy chats with the crowd a bit, trying to remember a song title, and then we get a set-closing Curtis which starts off in an unsuspecting manner for a tune that will blow up into a HEAVY GROOVE!
– LATE SET –
Short intro from Billy as he waits for their guests to return to the stage, and then the sounds of outer space once again fill the air …
An oddly built groove establishes itself on track #1 — like, a random listener would not call this a “groove”, but it is! John moves from piano to clavinet, intermixing, while Billy/Brahim keep the percussive beats busy and Logic adds some bleeps and bloops … where’s Chris? Hard to hear him in this section, but close to 5min in you can hear his low end filling in the groove, Billy’s going crazy and so is John. The chaos subsides as we roll over …
To track #2 with some gentle methodic piano accompanied by some bowed bass and percussive tinkerings, along with Logic zaps. This turns into something hauntingly beautiful as John leads the melodic exploration here.
Track #3 finds the ensemble falling off into open space … these 5 guys are really digging the open vibes this night! This playfulness reaches some frantically anxious energy by the end of the track …
So track #4’s improvisation has grown out of that previous open exploration, and it is sparse with Chris leading the melody using wacky electric plunking while John interjects with piano, and the percussion brothers keep it all moving. Chris starts digging into his groove a bit more after 2min in but this subsides a bit and the sparse groove continues until Billy moves to the kit and picks up the tempo — everyone else responds. Close to 8min into this track the music splits apart again into more open exploration … yep, they are loving that … and you will love where this once again leads …
HEGAZ! Track #5 finds the musicians resurrecting Hegaz from the earlier set – SWEET! MMW will go onto play this song numerous times throughout the spring tour, but these performances with Brahim on oud are MUST HEAR! It’s Brahim’s tune, we think, and he leads the ensemble brilliantly through it … love this TUNE! Never disappoints … and the version with MMW’s bus driver, Dominic Placo, on trumpet from April ’05 is outstanding!
Next up we get a Bass Solo intermingled with some open improvisation that lands us in a nice bluesy number — in a similar vein, the EARLY SET offered a nice gospel groove near the end as a ray of sunshine in an otherwise darkly-vibed set of music, and so the LATE SET likewise offers a sunny vibe at this point.
illyB then introduces the band, and we’ve got time for “one more” … unfortunately, only one more tune, not set.
Queen Bee closes out the gig in fine form — the guys really dug this tune at the time, with lots of stellar performances and variations on it from late ’03-’05 … this one is exceptionally no exception …
A quick break, and the guys come out to lead us down Swamp Road for the encore … and if you haven’t listened to the duet take on that tune which Medeski and Logic recorded years ago, check it out too:
And of course, after hearing this gig I’ve always wanted to hear the next night, 3/8/2005, but alas, it’s never circulated … at least, not that I’ve seen …
Tonic seemed to allow the band to feel some good vibes with nothing but stellar gigs from that space. Never had the opportunity to attend, myself, but all the gigs for which we have recordings are many of my favourite MMW shows, and many involve HUGE DOSES OF IMPROVISATION — like this week’s pick — so soak up this Friday Afternoon In The Universe …
enjoy the grooves,