Medeski, Martin, and Wood Show Review -- The State Theatre, Ithaca, NY -- 02/28/08
4 out of 5 - Medeski, Martin, and Wood
Progressive jazz trio, Medeski, Martin, and Wood have decided to push new musical boundaries in 2008 and, by all means, this past Thursday’s show at the Ithaca State Theatre was a complete reflection of that.
In 2008, the world-renowned group is planning to set a new musical precedent. They’re having three separate tours throughout the year, and before each tour, the band plans to write all new music, work it out on the stage, and then record in the studio. Thus, MMW plans to release three separate CDs in 2008, all comprised of completely new music.
Most groups tend to take a few years or at least a few months to work out one album and then practice it as much as possible, before even attempting to play it live on the road. Bypassing that process completely, Medeski, Martin, and Wood are essentially trying to accomplish what most artists do in a few years or so in just a few short weeks. This will undoubtedly have one of two outcomes: either they’ll burn themselves out completely, facing the chance of being sub-par for the later tours, or their creativity will flourish beyond limits, more than likely launching them into jazz’s legendary status.
While only time can tell on the outcome of this venture, one thing is for certain: the opening leg of their grand scheme is composed of rocket hot fire.
It was very quickly evident to everyone in attendance, that MMW came to play Thursday night in Ithaca, NY. With John Medeski’s mind-boggling, improvisational work on the keyboards, Chris Wood’s smooth, yet abrasive, bass lines and Billy Martin’s untouchable, finesse style of percussion, it’s hard not to ignite the house, whether it be songs they’ve been playing for years or new songs their still trying to work the kinks out of.
Many of the songs played, the names of which are still largely unknown, have a very experimental vibe to them. MMW seems to pursue experimental jazz that will either make their listener stop and follow intently, or dance their way around the room, both of which seemed to be happening throughout the night. If fans were not getting down in the aisles of the State Theatre, they were sitting pensively in their chairs, trying to catch the strokes of brilliance the trio was exuding.
Watching the group is like a game of sorts. There are times when you watch each member play individually and there are other times when you have to watch them as a whole. Their music seemed to be an exploration of what they wanted to play and what the crowd was reacting to. Highlights from the night include a jaw-dropping bass solo from Wood during the second, more explorative set, a jam session featuring all three members of the band on their own respective bongos, and old crowd favorite, Bubblehouse, as an encore.
Honestly, all that can be said about this show and the music that MMW is touring with right now, is that it might be some of their best stuff yet, and as their plan for 2008 trudges on, it appears as if it can only get better. Simply put, at this moment in time, the musical phenomenon of Medeski, Martin and Wood is like “The Matrix”: you can’t be told what it is. You have to see it for yourself.