|Trouble playing tunes?|
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD
The Fox Theater, Boulder, CO
Sunday, October 22, 1995
Set 1: Open Improv > Oscillation > Lifeblood, Last Chance To Dance Trance (Perhaps), Sequel, Open Intro > Jelly Belly > Is There Anybody Here That Love My Jesus*, ChinoiserieSet 2: Improv > The Lover > Dracula > Henduck, Think, Worms, Lonely Avenue, Chubb Sub, Crosstown Traffic
Encore: Bemsha Swing/Lively Up Yourself* w/ vocal calls from Billy
– SET I (tracks 1-9) –
– SET II (tracks 10-19) –
– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#6)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
From the Oxford English Dictionary’s entry on the word “Oscillation”:
Etymology: A borrowing from Latin. Etymons: Latin ōscillātiōn-, ōscillātiō.
< classical Latin ōscillātiōn-, ōscillātiō the action of oscillating < ōscillāt- , past participial stem of ōscillāre oscillate v. + -iō -ion suffix1. Compare French oscillation (1605)
a. The action of oscillating; movement to and fro; periodic motion about a position of equilibrium, as the swinging of a pendulum.
b. Chiefly Science. A single movement to and fro; a vibration.
c. Music = beat (n.1 8a.)
1890 Cent. Dict. (at cited word), Oscillation… In music, same as beat..or beating.
… and then there’s a footnote to the n.1 8a. definition for “beat” in the OED:
A throbbing or undulating effect taking place in rapid succession when two notes not quite of the same pitch are sounded together; the combined note alternates rapidly between the minimum of sound produced by the mutual interference of their vibrations, and the full effect produced by the coincidence of their vibrations.
And then back to the further definitions for “oscillation”:
a. fig. Vacillation, fluctuation, or wavering between two states, opinions, principles, purposes, etc.; an instance of this.
b. Psychol. (disused). Fluctuation of attention or mental efficiency.
3. Electronics. A rapid alternation in the direction of flow of a current; the state of a circuit in which this is occurring. Also: an electromagnetic wave produced by such a current.
a. The difference between the greatest and the least values of a function in a given interval.
b. Variation consisting of alternate increase and decrease without convergence to a limit or divergence. Cf.
… I find it interesting how all the various definitions pertaining to particular areas of study are actually all very similar in what they are meaning, that attempt at describing a repetitive fluctuating vibration that is not quite just a repetitive fluctuating vibration. In slighly more user-friendly terms Wikipedia states:
“Oscillation is the repetitive variation, typically in time, of some measure about a central value (often a point of equilibrium) or between two or more different states. The term ‘vibration’ is precisely used to describe mechanical oscillation but used as a synonym of ‘oscillation’ too.”
– SET I –
MMW’s Oscillation moves back and forth from chaos-to-groove, a common pattern for MMW tunes in some sense so the tune could be see as a microcosm of MMW’s entire creative output and intent, but the tune is unique in itself — and I do love that groove John plays on the Wurlitzer (?). There is some splendidly struck stand-up bass notes throughout — like, Chris is gonna break one of those fat strings! Deep digging.
(Much of the rest of this set and show will showcase tunes that end up on the next year’s album release of Shackman, a landmark album for the band in many ways.)
Love when the band drifts into Lifeblood … a relatively new tune to the repertoire at this point, the opening is not as drawn out as it gets so illyB kicks in with his shuffle pretty quick, John is tinkering along with jabs and runs while Chris keeps things creeking as he bows his bass — drops the bow just before 2min and now we’re hoppin’ with that plunk/slide bassline as John comes in and Billy keeps us cooking. Nice young energy in this early Lifeblood.
Last Chance To Dance Trance (Perhaps) has become an elusive treat in recent years, but back in ’95 the band played the hell out of this tune and often. The song has a very grand feel to it, almost strangely so in an epic way. It has tiny moments of what Oscillation milked to the extreme, these tiny unravelling moments that seem to slingshot the trio back into main LCTDT(P) theme. Around 5min John’s tone gets real nasty — in a good way! — and illyB is beating those toms while Chris holds it all down, moving nicely back into building up the theme as we approach 7min with John’s organ just swirling my head! This all leads to the usual mid-tune Drum Solo from Billy — again, never cared much for drum solos before I started listening to MMW, but now I dig ’em and the journey they explore (last MMW gig I caught Billy closed the show with a KILLER solo!). When John slides back in with that organ and the band finishes this out, it’s always BIG!
After a brief pause, we get Sequel with what sounds like a tribal-ish beat of some kind; tiny high-end plunks from the bass; then some Clav mashes as the bass bites in a bit more — that beat is still driving us, a swirl of keys and smatter of bass, and we’re into the Sequel groove. The title being a reference to the fact that this a “sequel” to (i.e. reworking of) an earlier tune called It’s A Jungle In Here — a curious reworking and re-titling. In some sense it just sounds like they solidified what they felt was a better arrangement of IAJIH, but then gave it a whole new title as well — which might be driven more by the appearance of each tune on successive album releases. Regardless, once Sequel made an appearance we were never welcomed to the Jungle again until a surprise appearance in a 3-set one-off gig in NYC from May 2012 when It’s A Jungle In Here closed the first, and MMW-only, set of the night — and it rocks as it’s own arrangement after all these years! Anyway, Sequel swirls us around and around it’s dark-ish vibe, building and building up and up until the release back to the light Sequel bounce that wraps us back around to moments reminiscent of the start of the tune. Done.
The band toys with some open space leading us into the Belly of the Jelly groove. Jelly Belly is still young at this point and the band is still carving out their approach to the tune, but they aren’t shy about ripping this up until it ends and slams into the start of Is There Anybody Here That Love My Jesus, a nice pairing. ITAHTLMJ is one of the eariliest MMW tunes I remember hearing as I got into the band over ’95-’96, and I just love the opening notes. John grinds out some nice work deep in the tune eliciting some vocal calls from Billy – fun! A classic MMW take on Duke Ellington’s classic Chinoiserie closes out the set in high energy fashion.
Many of the tunes really are just passing the solo-hat around — this is early MMW, and the group-mind/interplay develops more and more over time, at least to my ears, where the idea of one of them “soloing” is often masked in the communication between the 3. It’s certainly there in the mid-90s — that’s why we all loved listening even then! — but this develops over the years, and for me the guys are never tighter than their last gig. I mean, listen to those Jamaican gigs from Jan ’16 where they haven’t played together since an MSMW gig in summer ’15, and before that it was 2 gigs with the Alarm Will Sound Orchestra in Feb ’15, but still the trio is locked-in and just grooving. Yes, they mostly relied on older tunes they’ve known for years, but they rocked and their improvisation was fresh and exploratory — what more can you ask for 25 years into a band? HA! Anyway, ’95 is a young version of that but the 3 have certainly always seemed to have a special connection …
– SET II –
We get some thumping from Billy; then some organ work from John; followed by some thumping from Chris this time — then the trio bounces this around a bit, taking turns exploring sound-in-the-round (not that they’re playing in-the-round, but that they are passing the sound around), so to speak. Sometimes the fill is chaotic, sometimes melodic, or a bit of both. This all eventually mashes into a caucophony of chaos (?) and suddenly Billy is riding that opening jingle that builds some tension before — BOOM!
The Lover burts into the scene, getting everyone’s butts movin’ with a groove. As The Lover dissolves into the bass bowing as usual from Chris it doesn’t last long before John starts sprinkling in some spooky intro sounds accompanied by illyB shaking some toys and we’re actually making our way through an opening lead into Dracula! Dracula begins a run of newer (at that time) songs, with it debuting roughly midway through ’95 (7/5 is the earliest known recording). Nice Dracula, as usual, and it adjoins nicely with Henduck as the two tunes share similar structures with the open-space-sounding starts/ends to each tune — similar to their eventual Shackman album mate, Lifeblood, also a ’95 debut. Henduck wraps up after some particularly meaty plucking from Chris throughout, and the 3rd and oldest of these run of newer tunes, Think, pops up and I *think* you can tell it’s been around a little more. Having debuted near the end of ’94, Think has gotten some considerable attention since then, with some larger versions in the spring of ’95 and seemingly settling into the structure of the tune as most of us would know it now. Think starts with illyB kickin’ in the beat and slowly builds — loving John’s tone at this time!
Worms is, to my ears, silly fun. It’s intense, sorta, but when I just step back and listen — all the while with “worms” floating through my brain in some way — I just laugh. I dig that. Nice illyB solo in here before the concluding Worms march.
’95 is a good sounding year for Ray Charles’ Lonely Avenue — I mean, all 3 of the guys are so young and their sound is so raw at this point. Again, John is so raunchy at times, like the opening of the tune, it’s great. This moves swiftly onto Chubb Sub, no solo to intro the tune, and it hops along quite briskly. Billy back introduces the tune mentioning how it’s on the soundtrack for the album Get Shorty. Another MMW classic, their cover of the Hendrix tune Crosstown Traffic, wraps up this set on a high energy note. The encore takes us down into a more mellow vibe …
As Bemsha begins John is playing a curious melody … unusual placement but a nice start to the tune! Tune plunks along on at a fairly lazy pace, just hangin’ out … this is a wonderful merger of two great songs, Bemsha Swing/Lively Up Yourself, that I can’t hear them without the other now, even in other contexts. This is a real sweet way to close out the night …
That wraps up another Friday Afternoon In The Universe, unfortunately a day late this week — I was outta town catching a show and got back too late to post! This gig was worth the delay though …
enjoy the grooves,