– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#17)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
After a few weeks absence, I’m back with *3 shows* to hopefully make up for my lack of FAITU picks the past 2 weeks. So this week I’m sharing FAITU #17, #18 & #19, which are a run of shows in the U.S. Northeast from the fall 2002 tour (there was a 4th gig on that run as well, but it’s never circulated). There’s some repetition in song selection, considerable variance too, and just full-out incredible improvisation on display. Fall ’02 saw the opening improvisations stretching out more than ever before becoming a common tactic for starting a gig throughout the rest of MMW’s career. The tunes, mostly from The Dropper and Uninvisible albums (plus some other favourites), that are repeated see some interesting treatment, placement, and song segues – each gig offers something unique in this way in addition to each beginning with some hefty spontaneous composing … now to the replay tape …
** Thursday, September 26, 2002 **
– SET I –
Pulling noise from space, the band jumps into the abyss and builds such a solid groove by the 4min mark it has to be planned – doesn’t it? NOPE! On fire is what they are! @4:40 the intensity turns up to eleven, John hits the Clav HARD and things are digging deeper, then the touch lightens a bit while the hold of the groove remains. illyB is breaking it down while John is really messing around and Chris attempts to hold a through-line for the bass. @6:48 or so John twinkles a melody of something – what is that? Man, this opening improvisation is rich, rich, rich! Things lock in more firmly and the trio rumbles along nicely playing this brand new tune they just composed on the spot, and continue to compose until the beat keeps pulsing but John lays down some smothering key work until everything dissolves to nothing @9:49 where a quick hit of the keys begins a shift into our next journey, something more slow and methodic. Nice ride from Billy, smoky Wurlitzer (I think?) from John and Chris establishes a plunkily falling bassline. Suddenly, another new song written within the first 20min … wild. This slinky groove leads to more Open Improv exploration that eventually leads into the full on blues we’ve been feeling as we head on down to …
Lonely Avenue, one of MMW’s oldest covers, this Ray Charles classic never disappoints – and the trio’s treatment of this tune is always raunchy and nasty. This performance lives up to the hype, with John seeming especially murky in his organ sounds which bleeds over nicely into the spacey introduction for the next tune, taking up the last minute of this track before it rolls over to track #3 and we are …
Uninvisible leading to heady beats and dancing – oh yeah, that fuzzy bassline comes in, so HEAVY you can *feel* it, John’s making some atmosphere, and then illyB kicks the beat. We vamp, just loving that bassline, and now John comes in with his main melody playing off Chris, and the groove feels so solid. SO SOLID. LIKE CONCRETE. But fluid, like water … out the end of Uninvisible Pappy Check appears and moves ever so nicely into the set closing Partido Alto – some of these transitions between tunes are just so good.
– SET II –
Some open space is explored and John’s honking the Melodica a bit, and just towards the end of the track you start to realize they’re about to hit a Ten Dollar High, and the price is right my friends – cheap but quality. Love how this builds and builds with John on the organ into kind of a hammy classic ending which burbles into a Bass Solo descending into the eerily groovy Shacklyn Knights where a short Drum Outro leads us out to hear the sweet Creole Love Call (that’s John’s part) coupled with the bassline from Your Name Is Snake Anthony (thank you, Chris) all while illyB kicks it down. This medley arrangement appeared during the spring ’02 tour with the Uninvisible Horns led by Steven Bernstein, but has remained as the way MMW bring Snake Anthony to the live stage (aside from a July ’02 performance where Col. Bruce actually tells the Snake Anthony story … kind of).
A Drum Solo runs out of Snake Anthony’s Creole Call and begins the driving groove of the 2nd half of the set, exploring some nice kit work from illyB before he just starts pounding it and we are on Fire! Hendrix-style! And, where there’s Fire, there’s Smoke (or vice versa, usually) and that Smoke evaporates smoothly into The Dropper – damn, I wish I could catch this tune live! – and that drops crazily into Felic, which is one of the wilder tunes from The Dropper album, not to mention from MMW’s overall repertoire. Felic is just nuts! The charge of Blue Pepper brings us back to more earthly planes, sorta, to wrap up the set.
And for the first of 3 nights in a row, we get an I Wanna Ride You, this one fully electric, preceded by a brief Organ Intro from John – love when he does that. The next 2 nights will find this tune in the encore slot again and again, but with some twists …
** Friday, September 27, 2002 ** >>> 2002-09-27
** Saturday, September 28, 2002 ** >>> 2002-09-28
These 3 gigs showcase nicely what the band can do with similar tunes, which they tend to focus on for a tour or stretch of time, and how playful and adventurous their approach can be. But we also see the advent of larger sections of Improvisation, a welcome development in their gigs … the band just gets tighter and more daring …
enjoy the grooves,
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD
Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, Providence, RI
Thursday, September 26, 2002
Set 1: Improv > Improv > Improv > Open Improv > Lonely Avenue > Uninvisible > Pappy Check > Partido AltoSet 2: Open Improv > Ten Dollar High > Bass Solo > Shacklyn Knights > Drum Outro > Creole Love Call (w/ Snake Anthony bass line) > Drum Solo > Fire, Smoke > The Dropper > Felic > Blue Pepper
Encore: Organ Intro > I Wanna Ride You
– SET I (tracks 1-5) –
– SET II (tracks 6-17) –