– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#13)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
I love ’03 MMW. Fall ’02 saw some great Improvisation opening many shows, like lengthy explorations, and ’03 continued that trend in the spring. Many of the April ’03 gigs start with a hefty dose of improvisation, much to this listener’s delight, and then there’s some new music the band debuts, covers and originals, througout the year, a couple of which are in their live repertoire infancy for this gig. Onto the show …
– SET I –
The opening Improv begins with some sporadic bass plunks accompanied by sounds from outer space before a beat eventually locks down and we’re starting to hear something resembling melody and groove start to form. And there it is … oh yeah. Moving along hard and steady driven by illyB around 5min John and Chris are both back to atmospheric sounds mostly, with Billy still pushing and then eventually giving way to the breakdown, so it happens organically. Smooth. @6min John sounds off a harsh deep sound followed by more from outer space while he’s got the organ creating a symphony underneath — the only real melody is coming from Chris, while Billy keeps my head boppin’. This morphs into a slow groove that I kinda feel is the next section of the improvisation/spontaneous composition — sometimes the shifts in groove are such that I feel like noting them separately, but in this case I’m leaving this entire 15min or so noted as a single Improv because it all just moves so smoothly together (I probably over do it in the setlis with noting and breaking down the improvisations sometimes, but I can’t help it, I like to know.) We get one more shift in groove after 10min or so and this rides us out to the end, into a short Bass’n’Drums/Bass Solo segment before landing right on the opening chord of …
Wiggly’s Way, always fun, but @2min into the tune John moves to Piano and stays there – WHOAH, this is some nice work from him. It’s hard for me to listen to other players because John’s approach, attack, note choice, *everything* is so alive and vibrant and speaking right to me. Love his playing. Wiggly’s wiggles its Way to The Lover, but not before there’s a brief drum beat fake-out from illyB accompanied by low rumbling piano, then just the beat which morphs to the familiar Latin touch and that’s when we meet The Lover. Wonderful interplay from all 3 on this tune (surprise, surprise — they had been playing it for a while by this point).
The 1st set wraps with what was a new tune at the time, or so we all thought: Down On Me. I remember this was when bittorrenting was taking off so we got some of the shows from this tour pretty quick and heard this new tune played throughout the spring tour; I then heard it in Montreal at the Jazz Fest that summer, but I know we still didn’t have a title — can’t remember when we got the actual title of the song, to be honest. It’s actually an old spiritual melody that the guys have tinkered with in years previous, which I’ve since discovered in all my listening and relistening over the years. The earliest show I have where they use the Down On Me melody is from Santa Monica in April ’97. Next, the band used the Down On Me melody in conjunction with the Tseukemono bassline in 2000 for a few wacky performances. Then that melody suddenly appears again in 2003 as a full blown arranged song of its own, and it is fantastic. On this night, as it did often, the tune begins with some woodblock groove from the band, only the crowd joins in clapping along and Billy gives them a bit of instruction to hold the groove, the trio and crowd play along like this for a bit until Chris picks up the stand-up and begins his bassline (oh, this is nice) and Billy eventually moves to the kit with the crowd still clapping along, but by the time John hops in on piano the crowd has quieted and you can feel everyone must have just been locked into this groove — I know I am!
And then, what was sort of a common thing for a few 1st sets on this tour, the tune boils down to an illyB Drum Solo and he takes us into the set break. I recall an interview where Billy talked about the first time they did that, closed a set with a drum solo, and how exhilarating he found it and felt the crowd was into it too, and wanted to do it again … not sure exactly when that was … just found a show (6/22/2001) where they close with a Drum Solo … any earlier? It’s not uncommon to us now … last show I caught (10/5/201210/5/2012) closed with a Drum Solo, much to my delight – Billy was crazy! Just like this gig! I was never a big a fan of drum solos until I started listening to Billy …
– SET II –
A little Jelly Belly gets the 2nd half rolling, with Chris starting in with a muted version of the bassline before John and Billy join in, with John sticking on piano as they milk out a playful opening to the tune. A cool groove to get the set going.
The band ends the tune, pauses, and then John zaps more outer space sounds into our ears as the band starts building a harsh improvised groove — loving this, but it ain’t for easy listening, if you know what I mean. Almost a companion piece to The Dropper (which we’ll hear in a couple of tunes). The Improv breaks down to some atmospheric fill from both John and Chris, then illyB picks up that hand drum he uses to start us Dancing with Toys … and then there’s the beat: Toy Dancing builds up and this is one of my MOST favourite grooves of MMW’s. Heard the tune in its infancy on my first run seeing them in spring of ’98 and the tune has held a special spot in my heart’s groove since then. Love it when John calls out that main melody … and the different keyboards he toys with over the years … not sure what it is tonight, but the sound just bends so wildly! Toy Dancing takes into The Dropper — I LOVE THIS TUNE! Man … love the clashes in sound … eventually we drop into Dracula which slinks along its vampiric path before giving way to another Drums’n’Bass moment (driven more by the drums than bass this time), which simply ends after some tambourine/bass interplay before Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho starts from silence to begin shakin’ our butts, launching the final run of tunes for the gig — but the band is far from being done with their playful explorations.
H-H-H-H hits its usual wrap-up noise only to use that as the opening segue into We’re So Happy — and what a happy groove it is! Nice to hear this tune in the mix.The move from We’re So Happy into Legalize It is an excellent exercise in seque patience: SMOOTH!!! Legalize It was new on this tour, and MMW would eventually record the tune with John Scofield on the 2006 release, Out Louder.
Some Olde Wyne sooths our bellies in the encore slot, and that finishes a REALLY tight gig!
enjoy the grooves,
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD
State Theater, Kalamazoo, MI
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Set 1: Improv > Bass’n’Drums/Bass Solo Outro > Wiggly’s Way > The Lover > Down On Me > Drum SoloSet 2: Jelly Belly, Improv > Toy Dancing > The Dropper > Dracula > Drums ‘N’ Bass > Hey-Hee-Hi-Ho > We’re So Happy > Legalize It
Encore: Olde Wyne
– SET I (tracks 1-4) –
– SET II (tracks 5-12) –