|Trouble playing tunes?|
– EARLY SHOW (tracks 1-10) –
– LATE SHOW (tracks 11-21) –
– SHACK THOUGHTS –
FRIDAY AFTERNOON IN THE UNIVERSE (FAITU#15)
The Shack Project celebrates MMW @25 years!
– EARLY SET –
After the offical Blue Note welcome to the stage, MMW & Marty Ehrlich begin an INCREDIBLE set of music — the first of 2! We are SO LUCKY to have these recordings — BIG thanks to the guy who knows I appreciate his efforts! (I *finally* mailed your SD cards back TODAY!)
Sounds begin in a loose open way, playfulness from all 4 onstage, before a groove and melody begin to emerge — but we’re in Improvisational territory here and loving it! Medeski locks into this raunchy repetition that Ehrlich begins to play over with his flute as illyB kicks a solid beat, with a slight shuffle, and Chris is sliding/plunking the electric. While this seems a little abrasive it actually begins to welcome you before easing the sounds a bit over the 3-4min mark on track #2, and now things are really cooking. At just around 6min you’re going to really dig the groove we ride out, Ehrlich comes in on what I think is a soprano sax — it almost sounds like an oboe? Weird.
2nd Improv (track #3) slides out of the first improvisation to quiet and slow things down a bit. Atmospheric keys and an open tom beat from illyB while Chris plays a sparse line. After a minute or so this starts to solidify and fill in a bit more, but the guys have just developed what is basically a new tune — around 2min they move from what would be the intro to the body of the “song” and Ehrlich jumps back in on his bass clarinet (pretty sure that’s what it is). By mid-track the steam and involvement has picked up and Ehrlich is wailing as the tempo starts jiving hard. John amps it up on the keys and things blow-up by the end of the track into some interlocking noise getting us over to the next development.
Track #4 is the 3rd Improv and it grows out of this noise all 4 are contributing to, leading to it quieting a bit a minute or so in as Ehrlich leads the trio a bit with a cutting soprano line that gets more and more melodic until the band follows along to support it a bit more — things are still pretty disparate at this point though. But just before 3min all of that pulls together and it is smoooooooth! The smoothness gradually intensifies and by 5min the groove is harder and Ehrlich is again just wailing on top of it all — this guy is unreal! What a player! Perhaps my favourite horn to sit with MMW … and that’s saying something! Ehrlich just seems to be akin to MMW’s approach. When he drops out things settle down a bit again with John taking the lead on a subdued set of keys (Wurly? That murky electric piano sound. Might be a Rhodes?) The subdued feeling gives way to a stand-up bass solo from Chris — fluid and beautiful plunks accompanied by some minor tinkering from John and Billy during the first part before they drop out … which then allows Chris to get a wee wild! Wood beats the wood until we get to the sweet sounds of …
Syeeda’s Song Flute, a Coltrane tune that MMW have played forever with varying consistency, but always with solid results. I find the song stands as a minor anomalie in MMW’s live repertoire, along with a few other cover tunes. Something about the song’s presence as a set unfolds is always jarring to me — I mean, the band nails the tune, but its melody and mood seem out of place in a show for some reason … not sure why … having Ehrlich, fellow sax wizard, on this Coltrane cover makes it a little more special than usual. And yet, at the same time, I welcome the song’s inclusion in any set … mabye because it throws me a bit?
That Song Flute opens into some free exploration for a couple of minutes, but then the chaos that the entire set has been building to comes in the form of the Radiolarians track, Flat Tires — this tune is WACK! This song’s “verse” sections seem like a perfect example of different parts being seemingly non-related but used to create an astoundingly complete whole; Ehrlich’s additions to the track just add fuel to that fire. Then the “chorus” section is one of my favourite heavy vamps from these guys — LOVE IT! I remember first hearing this song when we got some recordings from the R2 tour, and it just blowing me away. Love the composition. Ehrlich is just weaving madness throughout — you gotta hear this!
The band could have finished there, leaving the crowd’s minds in a state of chaos at set’s end, but thankfully the kind Shackman groove closes out the set, with some super fine lines from Mr. Ehrlich once again.
– LATE SET –
Again, a welcome from the Blue Note for the band and guest, and we’re off. illyB tambourine work starts us off — man, Billy can rock a TAM! Ehrlich joins in on pennywhistle or flute (doesn’t sound like a flute at first, but does eventually — maybe that’s just Ehrlich’s wild technique? Or does he switch from one to the other?) and it’s just the two of them for a minute or so before John joins underneath with some subtle organ work, and just letting the tambourine and winds play. Chris eventually joins in with a spunky bassline that adds new energy to the developing groove — suddenly everyone drops out but Chris who plunks along a little before Billy moves to the kit and kicks in a beat but he’s using brushes so things have a softened edge; Medeski is milking that organ under it all and around 4min Ehrlich has joined back in on alto sax (sounds like it) and is laying out quite a performance over this bed MMW have created — Ehrlich just fits right into MMW’s mission of exploration and communication, I’m really digging this. The intensity and drive of this creation steps up a knotch as Ehrlich keeps pushing his input and the band reacts. Ehrlich drops out around 8min and the trio take the opportunity to let things morph even more until the eventual struggle for a new groove emerges …
Next, on track #3, the band moves into a bit of a Sly groove — some heavenly organ and a spaciously heavy bassline on the stand-up. Again, it’s not long before Ehrlich steps up to take a lead over the sound bed the band has layed, and he’s laying some thick sound. This breaks down near the end of the track to a more sparse groove before giving way to a Bowed/Bass Improv with Chris leading the way, Ehrlich dropping out, and then both John and Billy eventually as well — so it’s just Chris sawing away with some thick fat sounds, and then moving into some meaty plunking runs that take us to the next track …
“Ehrlich Blues” *has* to be an actual song — does anyone know this? If so, please speak up! It sounds *so* familiar, but that might just be my re-listens getting into my head. Thought it sounded familiar right off the bat though too … I dunno. Whatever this is, it’s a great melody that Ehrlich runs down the scale while the band comps a nice blues groove. And, like any good blues the hat gets passed around a bunch before we hit the head again and the band explodes out the other side to dissolve into an opportunity to move to the music, one last time, maybe.
Last Chance To Dance Trance (Perhaps) starts up its intro and Ehrlich lays this moaning cry over it which just layers up this epic groove that much more — when Medeski’s keys start the familiar blurble that begins the more groovier section of the intro my head and feet are just moving. Chris lays it down, as usual, through this section before we get to the Medeski swirl and the dance is in full effect. Ehrlich again paints his own melody — this guy is really impressing me. I mean, any horn player that’s sat in with MMW has been worth the sit-in and played great stuff, but there’s something extra intuitive about Ehrlich’s work here … at least to my ears. Really, really digging his input throughout the gig. LCTDT(P) erupts into its usual Drum Solo, but then never comes back to finish the tune … Billy barrels through bridging the dance to one final spontaneous composition.
Track #8, Flute Improv, morphs out of the Drum Solo and is just Ehrlich and illyB on percussion for the first while, a circling back to the pairing that opened the set … it’s short, and John starts pulsing a bit underneath …
Last Improv of the night, track #9, is one more chance to dance, folks! A very collaborative creation — like they were listening to Ehrlich and he to them all night, culminating in this more collective improvisation. John and illyB begin this groove — is Chris in there? Ehrlich doing anything? Some weird sounds … and this gels into a really murky thing by 3min in and then Ehrlich jumps in on bass clarinet with a nice deep melody line but still squawking out some peaks. Wonderful interplay among all 4 through the end of this track, tight to sparse, which brings us to the final tune of the night …
Seven Deadlies sneaks out the end of the last improv and is as weird, wonderful, and unsettling as always — this is the last tune! So, unlike the early set where the band left the crowd’s minds in a more groove oriented soothing place with Shackman following Flat Tires, here we have the band closing up with Seven Deadlies — has this ever closed a show before? I’m not easily finding another … an odd note to end on, but I dig that! Shakes things up a bit! Again, Ehrlich’s input on this tune is inspiring — some very impressive blowing here as he makes up his parts to the song as he goes …
Ya know what? I’d LOVE to see a whole tour of MMW w/Ehrlich — that would be stellar.
Find out more about Marty Ehrlich on his site:
PS: The other 2 circulating nights from this Blue Note run are also streaming and seeding for download:
MMW w/ Marc Ribot
MMW w/ Bill Evans
enjoy the grooves,