– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#14)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
If you have a chance to catch MMW during the month of April, on any given year, do NOT sleep on that chance. Besides December, I don’t think any other month of the year rivals for consistently stellar gigs, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s that the band is on tour or just playing one-offs, April is consistently a HOT month in the band’s history (see last week’s FAITU#13 for further evidence). And this week’s FAITU choice is no exception, it simply confirms the theory.
At the start of April ’06 MMW played a short 4-night acoustic run, debuting some music, some acoustic favourites and the acoustic treatment of some unlikely candidates. Then they take a week break and play a one-off set at Wanee Fest in Florida, followed by a 2-set gig the next night @Music Farm in Charlston, SC. Then another week break and this stand alone gig @Skidmore College before taking a month off. Weird schedule. Back to the music …
– SET I –
Show begins with a groove pulled from the ether and given to MMW for human dissemination. Where do they get all this music!?!? An endless tap that pours … this improvation has nice big open drums with a fuzzy bassline and some harsh/piercing key sounds — it really gets your blood flowing over the first 5min or so. Then there’s a slight shift with more murky keys, a more defined bassline and illyB skittering the kit a little more. The band plays this out, tinkering with it more, until it breaks down to some controlled noise-ish-like sounds in the final couple minutes …
The 2nd Improv is smooth with a popping bassline from Chris, steady illyBeat, and John swirling one wild key sound (Mellotron?) with the more appealing yet broken sounding keys carrying the melody (Wurlitzer?). Then (what I think is) the Mellotron drops out for a bit while yet a 3rd key sound steps in (Hammond B?) with a complimenary line to (what I think is) the Wurlitzer’s melody; then the Mellotron line comes back in; and we weave back again to (what I think is) the Hammond. All the while, the bass and drums are responding and morphing a bit in contrast — Chris’ bassline pulls in more of a slide and Billy introduces some rests in the beat. That plays away into a brief Drum Solo from illyB, just really taking us into the next improvisation, where Chris is the first to join back in establishing quite a funky line with the illyBeat. John slowly joins, quietly under the bass riff when Billy’s stopped, eventually raising the volume but still just playing around Chris’ work — this is wild!!! — until Billy starts with some shakers; John and Chris morph their interplay, Billy moves to the kit and just starts pounding — these 3 parts make no sense in isolation, but together we’re establishing a KILLER groove … it’s in the making … Chris holding strong, while both John and Billy basically freak out, respectively … until it almost just blows apart, but then locks into a HEAVY GROOVE for a couple of minutes before spiraling out again …
After some open space exploration the band tinkers around to resolve into the opening chug of (new at the time) Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing — a wonderfully celebratory tune if there ever was one! If you don’t feel good listening to this, I’m not sure I can help you further … the song will find its way onto the MSMW release of Out Louder later in ’06, but at the start of the year it got some wonderful trio-only-treatment.
New New Orleans continues the vibe Tootie Ma started — again, you just have to feel good as the band rocks this number, which doesn’t end up on Out Louder (or any album) but does find its way into the MSMW live set eventually.
And an interesting note to close the set, Tequila & Chocolate (another Out Louder tune with Sco) slinks in to comfort our souls into set break. It’s fun yet again to hear this trio-only version of a tune that lands in MSMW’s repertoire instead and disappears from MMW’s shows … so check it out! (These Out Louder tunes were also played during the acoustic run at the top of April ’06.)
– SET II –
The Shackman groove gets the set going nicely and begins MMW’s version of a song oriented set, as in very little interplay between songs with the playfulness confined to each song’s boundaries.
Waking Up (aka The Squalb) is such an amazing piece of music — what a composition! I loved it from the first note when they played it as part of the acoustic run earlier in the month. Any time Billy plays the thumb-piano it’s a GOOD thing. The tune was recorded for the children’s album the band (finally) released in early 2008 (we heard about this album for quite a while before it finally saw release). On the album the song is broken up over two tracks: the opening track, titled “Waking Up”, just tinkers with that main lullaby-ish riff briefly before the album gets going; later in the album “The Squalb” appears which is the more full version of the tune but accompanied by Mr. John Lurie on vocals telling the children the story about “The Squalb” — this is a slightly creepy kids’ story and even tells the kids not to believe their mom at one point … moms won’t like that.
The run from What’d I Say > Cat Creeps > Paris injects some dancing into the set after the more contemplative opening tunes. John says all he needs to say using only the piano during Ray Charles’ blues What’d I Say, and then Cat Creeps creepily jams in to electrify the groove (another kids’ album tune, not heard from much after ’06-’07), and then Paris takes John back to the piano, Chris on upright, and Billy grabs the mic to sing us a song! Nice little break-down in Paris between Chris and Billy with some nice plunking of the Wood until it’s just illyB kicking it briefly — interesting to find a short solo inside the tune!
Where’s The Music, another tune for the kids’ album, bubbles up to keep the energy going and butts movin’! This song is an opportunity for crowd interaction with the band: “WHERE’S THE MUSIC?!”
Nocturne is up next — this song is another top favourite for me and was wonderful to hear the band milk it a bit during this time period since they rarely played it around Combustication’s release … Nocturne is always welcome … love the sparseness at the top of the tune and then the way it fills in when Billy moves to the kit and things start cooking … hmmm … similar design to Waking Up (aka The Squalb).
The set wraps up with the MMW tailored medley of Nostalgia In Times Square/Angel Race (I’ll Wait For You), which is really a perfect mix and this version doesn’t disappoint — it’s fun electric or acoustic, and this electric version smokes. New Planet’s trippy groove closes the set, which is an odd but welcome final note … and oh, I dig Chris’ poppin’ bass on this tune!
Classic encore of Bass Solo > Chubb Sub ends the night — again, Medeski’s ’06 key sounds lend some new breath to this oldie.
enjoy the grooves,
- MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD
Skidmore College Sports Center, Saratoga Springs, NY
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Set 1: Improv > Open Improv > Improv > Drum Solo > Improv > Open Improv > Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing*, New New Orleans, Tequila & ChocolateSet 2: Shackman, Waking Up (aka The Squalb)+, What’d I Say* > Cat Creeps > Paris, Where’s The Music, Nocturne, Nostalgia In Times Square/Angel Race (I’ll Wait For You) > New Planet
Encore: Bass Solo > Chubb Sub* all piano version
+ 1st known electric performance
– SET I (tracks 1-5) –
– SET II (tracks 6-15) –