Medeski Martin & Wood Teams With Alarm Will Sound At Brooklyn Steel: Review & Videos

Words by: Aaron Stein

Medeski Martin & Wood with Alarm Will Sound 01.09.18:: Brooklyn Steel:: New York City

All terrific live bands need to have a elasticity, the capacity to adjust to the space, the crowd, to each other. Perhaps no group of the last 3 years is much more limber in such a way compared to Medeski, Martin & Wood, that are downright contortionists, bending, bending and forcing themselves into shapes of genre, size and style like it’s the most natural thing on the planet. This goes to the group itself: that the trio takes on additional guests and members — guitarists, celebrity, DJ’s; one or two or a dozen — and readily becomes a new thing which ’s equally as good, and nearly the same as they’re out by themselves or short a member. Their livelihood is filled with examples of these, talk to some even casual MMW fan and they’ll inform you about “that point with Marc Ribot” or if DJ Logic brought the show to another level. Therefore, it’s no surprise to locate the trio playing with a chamber orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, in Brooklyn Steel Wednesday night, and also much more surprising to discover that it worked quite nicely. The only question entering the show was in what ways it might work, and also, as it so happens, the answer is: nearly all them.

The show was part of New York City’s Winter Jazz Festival which has become adept at pairing different musicians and bands together. In cases like this, the cooperation actually came out of a Colorado look over four decades ago which led to a live album release this past year. The show began with everybody playing together. Individuals may joke in an MMW demonstrate that the three men make enough music for six, but the crowd immediately found out what it’s like when they’re joined by 16.

The sound was large, naturally, grand and cinematic. The trio has been tucked over to the side of the stage together using Alarm Will Sound taking the bulk of the distance. It felt as Medeski, Martin & Wood were narrating some dramatization of episodes out of their life in some off-Broadway show. The opening piece featured interesting minutes of “twinning” — that the Alarm Will Sound pianist fitting keyboardist John Medeski, a second where the two bassists played in duet, Billy Martin playing off the percussionist. Bits of classic MMW groove spun off an expansive clarinet solo and after a bit of jazzed trumpet. The night’s music could best be described as groove matches gravitas the outfit and the trio taking turns playing their own material individually and together. When the center trio eventually took a couple of old college groovers heavy, the crowd found their distance to maneuver and you could feel a collective notion bubble forming above the crowd, filled with the words “this is what I’ve been waiting for. ” The first set closed , “The Eye Of Ra,” a bit composed by Medeski, also felt like one of his more expansive penis solos come to life Frankstein’s-monster-style. Thick and angular, lovely and pensive and chunky with boogie, the outfit, flute-to-tuba brought full color to the black-and-whites of all Medeski’s keys.

Following a short break, the second set started with just the trio playingwith. Basked in orange lighting, the ensuing 30 minutes were like an old heist movie where the principals brought “obtaining the old gang back together. ” While it was a couple years because MMW had played with at all in their hometown New York and more still because they’ve played with any regularity, this magical stretch revealed why the area was filled with keen ears. For me personally, having seen all three members play in various groups over the previous few decades, the real blast was coming out of Chris Wood’s electric bass, which can be, in my view, also rare a treat. His prickly tone controlled the jamming which went out of heavygroove to madness and back . Spoiler alert: they pulled off the heist, like back in the afternoon. That constant flow of full-trio exploration taken its power into the remainder of the set. The outfit played with an equally energetic and engaging bit, “Escape Wisconsin,” composed by violinist Caleb Burhans. A bit by Billy Martin, known as “Coral Sea” was clarified as “impressionistic” by the composer and certainly was, for example Medeski’s, a bit of Billy Martin pots-and-pans come to life, a scene at Fantasia where the magic wand gets into the wrong (or right) hands.

Amazing shows end large, and this one certainly failed as Alarm Will Sound combined forces with Medeski Martin & Wood for expansive takes on two MMW originals “Anonymous Skulls” and “End of the World Party,” the first two tracks off the End Of The World Party (Just In Case) album from 2004. The structures members of AWS were fascinating, the orchestra mining the first tunes for both their grooves and subtleties and bursting them in most sizes. As much as it had during the night, it felt like a true collaboration, both teams contorting their limber selves to fit together as though it had been intended to be all together. For the encore, Martin stepped front and conducted both the musicians and the crowd in a crazy piece of controlled improvisation a fun way to end the show, the crowd encouraged to emulate the wildness of their horns and strings, everybody in the room analyzing their elasticity one final time.


Opening Number Captured by Parker Harrington

Just Like I Pictured It Captured by Chris Bobbins

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