Warren Haynes and Friends :: 2.02.05 :: Bowery Ballroom :: New York, NY
The relentless Mr. Haynes called an impromptu performance billed as "Warren Haynes and Friends" in his adopted home town of New York, giving 550 fans and supporters the chance to see him perform once again with Dave Schools, bassist for Widespread Panic and long time Gov't Mule friend. Also joining the Friends roster was Matt Abts, Mule's ferocious, undefeatable drummer; New York City based John Medeski, fusion master and keyboardist with Medeski Martin & Wood; and Skerik, who leads and works with many interesting bands on a "suped-up" electrified tenor saxophone.
Warren Haynes and Friends :: 2.2.05 :: Bowery Ballroom
Both Skerik and Haynes share a propensity toward multi-band, multi-genre alliances. Seattle native Skerik was exposed to jazz at an early age. He traveled to Europe and the South Pacific where he studied the sax by playing with bands rooted in blues, rock, jazz, Caribbean, and South African music. His two primary bands are the Syncopated Taint Septet and Critters Buggin, both of which mix up the genres by laying jazz on its head and infusing it with punk, rock, rap, and hip-hop. He has also worked with The Les Claypool Frog Brigade, Black Frames and many other brain busting bands that are never afraid to take a chance on stage. Apparently, he is fascinated with genre hopping, as was evidenced in his handling of the sax on Howlin' Wolf's blues classic "Who's Been Talking," his work on Gov't Mule's signature song, "Mule," and his vocals on Tom Waits and Ann Brennan's "Going Out West."
Skerik and Abts
2.2.05 :: Bowery Ballroom
John Medeski also added an avant-garde texture to the blues and jazz-based rock covers and Mule originals prominent in the repertoire at the Bowery Ballroom. The almost fourteen minute introductory jam highlighted Medeski and Haynes's ability to move from music with a deconstructed center to a structured mélange of sounds, with Warren slipping in teases of Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)." Another commonality they share is predilection for working on a number of projects. Medeski, for example, wrote a modern jazz score to a screenplay loosely based on Jack Kerouac's 1952 novel Dr. Sax. Though Medeski tends to play fairly exclusively with his Brooklyn-based thirteen year old trio Medeski Martin and Wood, he has a lot of experience with mixing things up and playing with the likes of jazz guitarist John Scofield, Phish, and DJ Logic. Wednesday night's performance included a funky rendition of "Think," off of MMW's best selling 1996 album Shack-man, Haynes's Grammy-nominated, Scofield-inspired, jazz-rock instrumental "Sco-Mule," and another Medeski/Haynes/Skerik highlight "Hottentot," a Scofield composition.
Dave Schools's addition to the Warren Haynes and Friends line-up revived debate on internet music discussion boards about Gov't Mule's new line-up forced by Allen Woody's (Gov't Mule's original bassist) death in 2000. Many people feel that Schools is capable of living up to Allen's deep and powerful bass work. Wednesday's setlist assured Schools/Woody comparisons on tunes such as Jack Bruce and Pete Brown's "Politician" and the Led Zeppelin-inspired Howlin' Wolf tune "How Many More Years," which morphed into a verse of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." Additionally, Schools added thunder on "Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)," another Led Zeppelin tune. Though speculation was abuzz, Schools and his Widespread Panic bandmates are set to go on tour again in late March after a fifteen month hiatus from touring and recording. The tour will coincide with the release of their new live album Widespread Panic: Live At Myrtle Beach recorded at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, SC in 2003. The anticipated release date for the CD is February 22, 2005.
2.2.05 :: Bowery Ballroom
The birth of this incredible jam session occurred because Gov't Mule was the house band for late night talk-show host Carson Daly the week before the show. Carson so enjoyed Warren and Gov't Mule that he asked them to be the house band the next week as well. Because Danny Louis, Gov't Mule's keyboardist, and Andy Hess, Gov't Mule's permanent bass player, had vacations scheduled before Gov't Mule goes on winter tour starting February 10th, Warren called on Dave, Medeski, and Skerik to fill in.
2.2.05 :: Bowery Ballroom
Gov't Mule co-founder and drummer extraordinaire Matt Abts provided his usual rhythmic foundation to all the performances at the All Star Jam. Accustomed to holding the collective together, eyes glued on Warren almost the entire night, Abts's astute sense of timing gave all the artists a bases in which to weave their lore. Watching this man play is like getting a work out. I get tired just by looking at his arms and legs hit his beautiful set-up. At times his arms are facing front while hitting one or another of his nine cymbals and hi-hats or his three floor Tom-Toms while his legs are pounding his two 14" x 24" bass drums (set up one in front of the other). At other times, his arms and torso are at a 45-degree angle playing two jumbo djembes while his legs are facing front, bopping up and down. His precision was evidenced in all the songs of course, but most specifically in "Rocking Horse," a Gov't Mule and Allman Brothers tune, and the fast-paced "Drivin' Rain," another Haynes-penned tune. The instrumental highlights of the evening clearly displayed the tight interplay between the musicians, with Abts and Schools providing the core. Specifically on "Freeway Jam," a Max Middleton-penned tune, off Jeff Beck's famous instrumental album Blow By Blow, Abts's ambidextrous skills were evident. Additionally, a rendition of Steve Winwood's famous Traffic instrumental, "Glad," paid homage to recently deceased drummer Jim Capaldi, once again providing an opportunity for all the instrumentalists to mix it up and show their musical virtuosity.
Warren Haynes's calling this spontaneous jam session felt like a gift to his loyal fans. Advertised solely through the internet and word of mouth, the show sold out in 20 minutes with only two days notice for the ticket sale. Finally shaking a cold that mildly affected the quality of his voice during Gov't Mule's recent New Years Beacon shows, his voice at the Bowery was back to its usual emotion-filled resonance and complex timbre. Both his vocal and guitar performances were stellar throughout the night; however, his work on certain rock and blues tunes were simply incredible. Opening the vocal portion of the evening, his rendition of a David Hess and Aaron Schroeder penned tune "Hammer and Nails" acted as the beginning bookend to the evening, while Haynes's heartfelt "Soulshine," closed the night. His powerful vocal range and sultry nuances made "Politician," "How Many More Years," and "Going Out West" worthy of accolades. Similarly, the climax of Warren's vocal and guitar work that night included his moving, nuanced, and soulful renditions of Chester Burnet's "Who's Been Talking" and Jimi Hendrix's "Red House" and "Hey Joe," which is often considered a Hendrix tune, though its authorship is in dispute to this day. For an old blues and psychedelic blues rock lover like me, I am partial to these tunes as well as to Warren Haynes's interpretation of them and a number of the other powerful rock tunes played on this extraordinary night. Finally, I was pleased as could be with the ability of all the performers to go out on the fringes of melodic structure and to bring it on home with grace and verve.
2.2.05 :: Bowery Ballroom
Words by: Angela Christofides
Photos courtesy of: 3800K.com
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