Gushathon: No words good enough
Medeski Martin and Wood
Starr Hill Music Hall
Medeski Martin and Wood are phenomenal. Period. No discussion needed. You can argue lame points to the contrary, but I will just look at you like you've been smoking a crack pipe and be on my way. It isn't every day that one gets a chance to see a musician or musical group that will go down in the annals of history. MMW is one of those groups.
Beyond being influential to a new breed of players, they have also rescued the careers of a few musicians thought to be past their prime (just ask John Scofield). These days it is hard to see a band of their caliber in a venue that holds less than 2,000 bodies. Starr Hill booked them. Charlottesville, do you know how luck you are?
Seeing MMW is a gamble. I have seen them three times before the Starr Hill show. On two of those occasions the band decided to play purely experimental sets. In the live arena, they tend to take their songs to the furthest extreme of abstract. MMW come from the world of jazz. The live setting is meant for that kind of exploration.
If Miles Davis or John Coltrane are among your favorite jazz artists, then don't forget that a large portion of both their catalogues is not easy to listen to. The ability to take your craft to its furthest extreme and still be able to come back to the root is what makes a great artist. This is something that MMW can do better than 99 percent of their peers.
So, when they do decide to drop what I call "the funk'd-up-psychedelic-brazilia-bop" on dat azz, it's impossible for anyone to deny the groove.
Just like a dream come true, keybordist John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin, and bassist Chris Wood put together a set that was a perfect balance of the abstract and the concrete. They controlled the crowd as if they possessed some cosmic universal remote, blessing the crowd with selections from their most popular albums: "Shack Man," "Combustication" and "The Uninvisible." Chris Wood moved from stand-up to electric bass controlling the low-end theories.
John Medeski swiveled around his cornucopia of keyboards. Billy Martin well good ol' Illy B just laid it down on the trap set. It just doesn't get much better than that.
When the creator said let there be MMW, there was the groove. And the groove was good. Amen.
PHOTO BY DAMANI HARRISON