Words by: Nathan Rodriguez :: Images by: Robert Foster

MSMW [Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood] :: 12.03.06 :: Liberty Hall :: Lawrence, KS

MSMW :: 12.03 :: Kansas
The lights at Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas dimmed as John Scofield walked out, accompanied by John Medeski, Billy Martin and Chris Wood. The band spent a minute or two working a few stray notes, as Billy Martin conversed in sign language with the sound engineer. After working the kinks out, the sound coalesced and Scofield slid into the immediately recognizable hook to "A Go Go." The cramped crowd of 500 roared in appreciation, and it seemed to satisfy most people's biggest request for the night.

The song's hook is the epitome of "playing in the pocket." As they began to branch out, Scofield's pinching, angular guitar worked its way to the edges of musicality before backing off. About ten minutes in, Medeski pushed the song ahead as the other three dropped out of the mix entirely. Medeski soloed for a few seconds and with a slight nod to the band, Scofield jumped in and leapt to the bridge. Within seconds they returned to the hook and let the song leave with a flutter - the perfect execution of a fan favorite.

Medeski - MSMW :: 12.03 :: Kansas
An improv titled "Down The Tubes" started with the usual Martin "bells and whistles" cacophony but after a few minutes of clatter, Chris Wood zeroed in on a simple, powerful rhythm. Billy Martin toyed with the beat, forcing it ahead at times and catching up to it at others. Scofield and Medeski took turns in the driver seat, each laying it on pretty thick for a few minutes before the song achieved a soft, smooth, gliding flow. The band stayed with the theme for several minutes before landing squarely in "Tootie Ma."

A maniacal, screaming request for "Bubblehouse" was met with a laugh and a dismissive shake of the head from Medeski, as "Little Walter Rides Again" quickly followed. "Walter" has a bit of an attitude problem. This cranky, stomping feel makes it the perfect opening track for Out Louder, the quartet's recent studio release. Martin and Wood relentlessly thrashed away, churning out a propulsive beat as Medeski and Scofield took turns leading the fray.

Scofield & Martin - MSMW :: 12.03 :: Kansas
The band leapt into "Miles Behind" to close the set with a seeming tribute to Miles Davis. Scofield played with Miles in the '80s, and according to Miles's autobiography, he "liked the subtlety of Scofield's playing." It's also worth noting that after playing on multiple tours and albums together, Scofield had enough talent and confidence to tell Miles he was leaving the group. Choosing to title the song "Miles Behind" becomes a little more interesting with that knowledge.

"Miles Behind" starts with Billy Martin erupting into a thunderous, hyperkinetic smashing of everything within arm's length. Scofield jumps in and the band takes off without looking back. It has a self-propelled, trance-like quality to it that blends right in with Bitches Brew. A fiery finish led to a hoarse Scofield informing the crowd they'd be back in a few. It was a good first set marked by quality musicianship that lost focus occasionally.

Martin & Wood - MSMW :: 12.03 :: Kansas
"In Case the World Changes Its Mind" was a solid opener for the second set, but the crowd reaction indicated a clear desire for calypso with the blissful, mindlessly exotic arrival of "Tequila and Chocolate."

"Hanuman" was the first real opportunity for Scofield to comfortably sprawl out. MMW focused their energy on providing Sco a tight platform, and it seemed as though the band had found its collective groove. That cohesive sound ebbed and flowed as Medeski introduced a variety of effects and distortion to the theme.

The crowd erupted when the notes of "Little Drummer Boy" forced their way into "illyB." They toyed around with the holiday theme (and subtle tongue-in-cheek nod to Billy Martin) for a few minutes before slipping back gracefully into "illyB."

Scofield & Martin - MSMW
12.03 :: Kansas
"What Now" was a rager, a swinging beat with swagger that gave Medeski an opportunity to pound away on the Howitzer. Meanwhile, Scofield eliminated all traces of pensiveness and cranked out a howling blues solo. Chris Wood kept the bass thumping, as Billy Martin forced the drums into hyper-drive. The whole band latched on as the pace hastened. Scofield anted up and proceeded to deliver a heart-racing, fist-pounding solo that sealed the deal and drew riotous applause at the finish.

MSMW played 10 out of the 12 songs on Out Louder. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Actually, if you check out the setlists from this tour, they are virtually identical, changing only the order in which the songs are played. Again, nothing wrong with that but don't expect to hear much off A Go Go or vintage material from MMW or Scofield.

That being said, this may go down as one of those rare tours that music lovers will discover and rediscover for years and decades to come. It's impossible to predict what audiophiles will deem "classic" 50 years from now but the music created at Liberty Hall — particularly the final half hour — was inspired. And, while the entire band was "on," it was Billy Martin who delivered one of his most memorable performances in awhile. MSMW is a supergroup for the ages. The fact that it wasn't a set of Scofield, a set of MMW, then a collaborative set, speaks volumes. This isn't MMW with Scofield. This is a brand new beast.

MSMW :: 12.03.06 :: Liberty Hall :: Lawrence, KS
Set 1: A Go Go, Down The Tubes (Improv) > Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing, Little Walter Rides Again, Telegraph > Miles Behind,
Set 2: In Case The World Changes Its Mind > Tequila & Chocolate, Hanuman > illyB > Little Drummer Boy > illyB > What Now Chank
E: New New Orleans

JamBase | Kansas
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[Published on: 12/19/06]

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MatthewAtienza starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/19/2006 05:21PM
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I saw them when they came to minneapolis, they blew me away. If I have the chance to see them again I definately will.

Greatwaves starstarstarstar Tue 12/19/2006 06:16PM
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so quick question for all.....
who thinks MMSW is better than MMTW (trey)
in my opinion scofield blows trey outta the water,is there bad blood between the two?ive heard that rumor, just thought id ask
then who s better Phil and Phriends with TREY or SCO

dobbs_5 starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/19/2006 07:42PM
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I saw the MSMW show in Minneapolis and it was dominant. I'd have to say that it is one of the best shows I've seen this year. I agree with dparris1, Scofield blow Trey out of the water. Scofield is 10X the player Trey is. If you have a chance to here the bootleg, definitely take the opportunity.

gratefullybred starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/19/2006 09:25PM
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dude, why does trey always get brought up? leave the dude alone. trey is a fucking amazing player, as is john scofield. theres no need to compare the two. both have brought amazing music to our ears. leave them both alone.

phil and friends with trey and page were some of the best phil lesh shows ever played. phil and friends with sco were also highly respectable shows in their own regard.

trey left phish to do his own thing. leave the guy alone. you all are just bitter that phish is gone, so you rip on the guy every chance you get. even in completely unrelated topics. sorry you lost phish and cant mooch off of a bands success this summer. : (

aimeemn77 starstarstarstarstar Tue 12/19/2006 09:37PM
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I am from Minnneapolis as well. I was at the First Ave show and they were amazing, loved Scofield. I didn't even have to travel to see them this time. They did a meet & greet after the show so it was nice to finally meet them all. I am loving the latest MSMW project. I hope they continue to play more music sooner than the last time. Nice review Nathan.
Peace & love from Mpls.

kaiserbun starstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 06:36AM
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scofield is an incredible guitar player, but stop this trey bashing and who's better than who. they are both incredible. plus all of you thought trey was god in the mid to late 90s.

paul14 starstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 06:52AM
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I saw them 3 times on the MSMW tour in D.C., Phili, and NYC. In DC and Phili they basically split the sets with the first mostly Out Louder and the second set heavy on A Go Go. So sick to see how much they all enjoyed jammin with Sco! It seemed like they were all locked in on him for every note.

Sco with Phil and Friends just didnt work. I would take Trey, GRAB, or Warren & Joan any day over Sco.

spacedog starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 09:36AM
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MSMW is the best 4-piece playing right now, hands down. The NYC throwdown was off the charts. These guys can play ANYTHING, in, out, ambient, rocking, funky, swing, whatever. Total pros and improv demons.

OysterDead starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 12:43PM
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MSMW indeed professionals!

The D.C show was a show to get warmed up, I wish I had scene others after that. But Still the D.C. show was sick!! Being a fan since '96 this group astonishes me everytime! Better than Sex. (after thought- not better than Sex)

I still would like to feel the MMW with Ribot shows!!

theorb419 starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 03:19PM
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Sco and Trey are so different that they can't be compared. Like gratefullybred said, they're both monstrous players. Anyway, this show sounds badass.

christophebaise starstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 05:20PM
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I wish I could've seen one of the shows on this tour. I think it kinda stinks they played the same songs every night though. The band may want to play these songs but what the audience wants to hear is important too. On another note I think the best Phil and Friends show I seen was with Scofield. The few shows I seen over the summer with Trey in the lineup kinda bored me.

Samzo starstarstarstarstar Wed 12/20/2006 06:33PM
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Heeeellll yeah!!! MSMW kicks ass I almost wish they'd conglomerate permanently... how siiick!?!!?!?

cocheese Thu 12/21/2006 11:30AM
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Scofield has slowly become one of my top favorite guitarist this past year.

Greatwaves Sun 12/24/2006 08:15AM
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first of all im not bashing Trey at all, i love trey.. i also love sco and have as long as ive loved trey, i just posted a question who thought MMW is better with Trey or SCO as with Phil, all you who think im bashing are retarded, im just getting a feel for peoples opinions, and waxing intellectual about... Music

elephantghost Wed 12/27/2006 04:15PM
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John Scofield is a better guitar player than Trey Anastasio. I love Trey, but come on.

ambrosiajam Wed 12/27/2006 04:51PM
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msmw in milwaukee was possibly the best show i've ever seen.and i've seen a good number of shows. i havent seen hundreds and hundreds of shows or anything, but i've seen plenty enough to realize how incredible this collaboration is!

BlueIndian Sun 1/7/2007 08:30PM
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Trey is a CRACK-HEAD. Jimmy Herring is the second coming of christ

borak22 starstarstarstar Mon 1/8/2007 02:46PM
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na, hes hooked on the pharmies.

billysee starstarstar Tue 1/9/2007 11:31AM
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you know what you guys, I have listened to MMW&S In that show from 98 in Holland or Amsterdam,tons of times, and it is the best jazz-fusion show I have ever heard!. So I am sure the group now is among the best that are around~ Trey is the best guitarist, {i} know of, for his ability to play clapton, hendrix and every other cat out there. Yeah we still want Phish to be around, but they are not right now. And let the first person who hasn't gotten high throw a stone at Trey. (and I don't even go see Trey anymore, I see the Biscuits or Umphreys) We just need to be community-for real. peace (BTW MMW has always been so so slick!)

MalkbabY Sat 1/13/2007 06:43PM
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comparing trey and john scofield is like comparing aerosmith and miles davis. sorry guys but scofield makes sounds with the guitar that trey can only make with his throat when he gargles his way out of a heroin stupor.

fiveyrold starstarstar Sat 1/20/2007 12:13PM
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this show was good, the crowd sucked. it was all youngsters who didnt have a clue. i even heard some kid yell out " play billy breathes" ??? john medeski just looked at these kids and taught them a lesson in whats up!anywho scofield is the man. I went to the next two nights which were even better. They rocked the Blue note and St. louis just topped it of at Mississippi nights (sad to say, but friday night was the last night for this venue, before they turn it into a parking lot) MMW is the shit, scofield is the shit. Whos comparing this to trey? totally different music. Some thought scofield wasnt' deece with MMW. I loved it. Way better than A GOGO. keep it fresh

fiveyrold Sat 1/20/2007 12:17PM
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another thing. the reason they play the same show every night is NEW MATERIAL. they arent gonna play Bubblehouse, or chub sub. that shits old new. they play they same songs on tour but do it according to the crowd. I saw Lawrence, columbia, and st. louis. same songs , but totally not the same. if youve ever payed any attention to MMw on tour. its always been that way. NEW Material!!! word

arrondwolf starstarstarstarstar Sat 1/27/2007 01:08AM
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didnt see the show but have seen MMW numerous times, Scofield Trio, Phish, Trey Big Band (During Hiatis), WSP w/Herring ( learning CAGED sequence from a guy who studied under Herring for 8 years ), Aquarium Rescue Unit w/Herring... all of this BS comparision of 3 of the worlds best guitarists....
and until you write a composition along the lines of Fluff>FluffsTravels, Split Open and Melt and i wont even mention your probable inability to even stumble through the arpeggious in a 3 letter set audience request/implied demand that fratasticly killed a group of 4 musicians that loved what they did and did well- No need to talk shit about Trey,Unless your intent is not to discuss opionion on something other than the topic at hand MMW+Scofield
havent even heard the sets, yet im assured that the blend of extensive knowledge and freedom in the conversation of music yields nothing but smile.
So can we stop with the Al Di Meola is better than Eddie Van Halen<>Keith Moon is better than John Bonham<>Bird(Charlie Parker for those of you who don't know who wrote the book on how to break the rules) is better than Coltrane Bullshit !!!!!!!!!!!!! rediculious waste of jambase server space. the junkie comments, Trey acknowdelged publicly a struggle with addiction (Refrence Guitar Player magazine Issue# to apatheitic to look through 6yrs of magazines and for those of you that are mathmatically impaired thats 72 issues, to explain the futility of "fantasy " banter. Tell Dave Breubeck that Charlie Parkers music sucked and is irrelivant because he had a drug problem... on second thought hes 84 and still playing "blue ronda al la turk" at near album tempo thats enough stress. How about just sticking the topic intially addressed as appossed to expressing "mear opinion" on the invisible plain of comparision between musicians worth as a musician and as a person. John Scofield, John Medeski, Chris Wood, and Billy Martin all kick ass and thats my 2 cents....
happy endevors in criticism( That Rolling Stone's job any way, why not leave it to the pros )