MMW | 02.24 | New Jersey

Words by: Matthew Jaworski | Images by: Tim McDonald

Medeski Martin & Wood :: 02.24.08 :: Count Basie Theater :: Red Bank, NJ


MMW :: 02.24 :: Count Basie Theater
There are few bands on the scene as daringly adventurous and prolific as Medeski Martin & Wood, and 2008 could prove to be the band's most exploratory and fertile period yet. In January, MMW released the excellent kids-music album Let's Go Everywhere, and this summer the band will be hosting Camp MMW, where participants will get to interact with the band and fellow musicians for "five days of intensive workshops and seminars, deep listening, musical exploration, and improvisation." Finally, they will be releasing three more albums of brand new music, written solely for and corresponding with this year's three tours. For over 15 years, MMW have been employing groundbreaking, boundary-pushing philosophies to music and performance, but it appears they are now also applying those ideals to the entire music industry.

Hopefully, the band will keep up the pace and continue to write music as engaging, unique and strong as what they played at New Jersey's historic Count Basie Theatre. The new tunes, none of which have confirmed titles yet, not only display their signature funkiness and masterful improvisation but also expand upon their musical palette. The band touched on a wide array of styles and moods, from jazzy to folky, spacey to groovy, melancholy to balls-to-the-wall rock.

John Medeski began the first jam with his back to the audience, eliciting bizarre, alien buzzes and murmurs from his stack of keyboards. Chris Wood soon joined in, using a bow to produce an otherworldly drone from his upright bass. Meanwhile, Billy Martin picked up various bells, shakers and whistles to add to the spacey din. Soon, Medeski introduced the melodic theme and the trio jumped into their familiar, second-line funk. The band seamlessly switched back and forth between the groovy and spacey sections, giving each other approving nods.

Billy Martin :: 02.24 :: Count Basie Theater
The third song, a relentlessly driving jazz piece, was a major highlight of the first set. While Wood propelled forward, Martin laid down a steady, powerful beat, that despite his light, graceful touch still sounded absolutely massive. As the song melted into a quiet, psychedelic jam, Medeski moved from his Hammond organ to the piano and began a jaw-dropping solo. With arms flailing, Medeski flew over the keyboard, at times pounding furiously and then soaring majestically. He eventually reintroduced the melodic line and the crowd raucously cheered.

That song morphed into a lumbering folk dirge that left some audience members staring in amazement while others stepped away to buy another drink. Medeski drove the tune with his melodica while Martin pulled out seemingly every item from his massive percussion arsenal – finger cymbals, clave, tambourine, shakers, gong and agogô.

After a drum jam that had the trio center stage whacking mercilessly on congas and bongos, MMW closed the set with a brutal funk boiler that made random audience members jump out of their seats and start dancing. It was a perfectly intense and soulful set-closer.

Wood & Medeski :: 02.24 :: Count Basie Theater
The first few songs of the second set highlighted Wood's immeasurable talents. Assuming the role typically assigned to the drummer, Wood held down the rhythm, allowing his bandmates to go off on extended solos. Between the first and second songs, Wood played an astounding, dynamic solo on the upright bass that floored the audience.

The band ramped up the energy for the final three songs. They began with a slow, morbid tune that sounded like a funeral song from a Western. With Martin playing his less-is-more drum set with mallets, Medeski led with his melodica, which sounded like a haunting, lonely accordion. Likewise, without missing a beat, Martin amazingly switched from mallets to tambourine to sticks to brushes and finally back to the tambourine.

For the final song of the set, MMW pulled out all the stops for a thundering, full-blown rock epic. Reminiscent of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' version of "Higher Ground," the tune raged forward and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The Hammond organ was smoking and Martin exploded massive triplets while Wood shimmed with his electric bass like a Thriller back-up dancer. This song was simply gigantic and will certainly be a fan-favorite for years to come.

Medeski Martin & Wood continue to evolve and, this year, they're obliterating the traditional roles and routines of their band. This first batch of songs is extremely strong, diverse and dynamic, and one can only imagine what the rest of this year holds for this remarkable band.

JamBase | New Jersey
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[Published on: 3/7/08]

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Comments

DaveT starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 02:14PM
+7 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DaveT

These guys are a class act. I've seen them about 5 times in the last decade, and each time it was like watching a different band each time. They don't stay in one place. They are constantly challenging themselves and their audience. True innovators. Go see them live, like yesterday.

garriswh starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 02:18PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Amazing band, so psyched for these 3 albums. MMW continues to amaze me each and every time.

bagofunk starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 02:40PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

After my last MMW show I was fortunate enough to see their spaceship take off into the starry night. Quite a spectacle!

DeadJam Fri 3/7/2008 02:42PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

DeadJam

These guys were great I was at this show and they are one of the best live acts.

sleewell starstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 03:25PM
+4 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

sleewell

how could anyone say anything bad about these guys?

pornofunk starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 05:08PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

pornofunk

MMW....amazing, just amazing

willydog Fri 3/7/2008 05:37PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

willydog

It has been said, but these guys are the @%*%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grateful Red Fri 3/7/2008 05:42PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Grateful Red

My nephew loves the kids album (and so do I!!!).

adventuresinperception starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 06:44PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

adventuresinperception

MMW are absolutely mesmerizing. The first time I saw these guys I was in the front row of the Denver Fillmore on three hits of acid! Needless to say, that night converted me into a lifelong fan. In addition to providing a rockin' good time courtesy of thorough jazz chops, they have opened me up to an entirely new world of 1960s/70s groove oriented hammond B3 burners. I cant wait till they come out west.

hnkscrpio starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/7/2008 06:47PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

hnkscrpio

Can't wait to see some MSMW this summer.

pheelalrights starstarstarstarstar Sat 3/8/2008 06:04AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

pheelalrights

I’ve seen these guys a number of times (can’t remember). From the front row to the balcony, they always set the place ablaze. Humphrey’s by the Bay was the ultimate!

IMHO, this is the most dynamic musical experiment of all times. Stir it up!

Pranaam.

The1AndOnlyDJCT starstarstarstarstar Sat 3/8/2008 09:12AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great review! This show sounds a lot like the Northampton show I was at, which was great. Let's see some more MMW soon!

welting Sat 3/8/2008 11:10AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

welting

Definitely my favorite band touring right now. Caught them the other week in Portsmouth NH and they rocked my socks. I'm going to make a movie about a mad scientist and cast Medeski in the lead. He's absolutely bonkers on those keys.

vinrazz starstarstarstarstar Sun 3/9/2008 08:57AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

these guys and their crowds suck. just kidding! they fucking rule! gots to bring a little psuedo hate.

spun'dun'git'r Sun 3/9/2008 09:04AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

spun'dun'git'r

i saw the first show of this tour in philly, and it was siick. the torrent is on bt.etree.org, ya'll should check it out. the new jams are excellent.

moejoerisin Sun 3/9/2008 03:47PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

moejoerisin

one of the most progressive jazz bands out.. definitely in my all-time top 5.

brooks5 starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 10:13AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

brooks5

this was my first time seeing them live. they rocked

manlejo starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/10/2008 11:13AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

whawhawha?!? three tours? three albums? hot damn!

By the way, this message board could've been done after Dave's initial post. Eloquently spoken. Every time, they're a different direction. Anyone who fancies themselves a fan of live music needs to see this band asap.

kandrokitis starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/11/2008 01:50PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

kandrokitis

I have never heard anybody say one bad thing about MMW. I really gotta catch these guys sometime soon. Chris Wood is one of the greatest bass players ever.

bataggrant starstarstar Wed 3/12/2008 04:59AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I'm a big MMW fan, I've seen them alone and with Sco a few times. That being said, the last concert i went to, which was in philly right before this one was awful. There was no driving vision in medeski's improvisation. The concert seemed like a noodling exercise. That being said, I have seen them play excellent shows in the past, and I would check them out again.

thehurricane23 Wed 3/12/2008 11:15AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

thehurricane23

I was waiting for the last run of MMSW shows and ended up missing them all because I moved out to colorado for the winter. They need to add sco to the allgood show and do a late night there, or w/o sco for that matter!!! The mountain would be jamming.

cavemandan Wed 3/19/2008 03:47PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

MMW are failed jazz musicians who happened to jump into the jamband circle and gain fame in the most watered down music genre.... jambands are all centered around drug use and festivals to buy sell and trade drugs...who is kidding who?....there are 10,000 jazz artists who absolutely smoke MMW but they do not want to be associated with dirty hippies rolling on meth, ketamine,molly , xtc and LSD...personally they bore me... sounds like when me and friends noodle around in the basement....compare to Bela Fleck who actually does have melodies, chops , vision, direction and isn't famous because of festys

pheelalrights starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/20/2008 01:20PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

pheelalrights

cavemanstanster...When you gunna start selling tix to your basement jams? Oh and BTW, are they in your mom's basement? Just f&%$(*& with you dude. You've got to give them props until they break out the kids toys during drums...

flowers.