Medeski, Martin & Wood in Denver 3.5.11
Words & Photos By J-man
Medeski, Martin & Wood are one of the most consistent bands that crosses paths with the jamband/festival scene. Their jazz, improvisational, well-trained style eats away at the brain with furious rage. The Ogden Theatre would play host to MMW and a packed house of Colorado music fans who turned out to celebrate twenty years of MMW. We were in attendance to experience the greatness that is MMW.
Arriving at the Ogden one would have assumed it was a sold out show by how packed the venue was. Per usual, the crowd was very eclectic and ranging in age. The first set was funky and included some of the more popular MMW songs. "Univisible" and "Bubblehouse" stood out as a couple of my favorites. MMW's ability to stay together while venturing deep into space has always impressed me. They purposely tore the whole structural integrity of their songs apart, to wander in separate directions, only to bring it back at the drop of a dime.
Billy Martin's drumming feels loose on the surface, but is consistent and precise deep down. He was all over the drum set and in the pocket, creating some incredible grooves for Chris Wood & John Medeski to work with. Chris' Bass playing was adventurous and delicately heavy. He would watch John while listening to Billy, the whole time keeping the space confined to a grooveable area. Chris is great at laying back on the groove or taking over completely.
John Medeski is one of the most incredible musicians that I have ever encountered. His technical training is beyond anything that I have ever witnessed. His precision is breathtaking and his grooves are satisfyingly crunchy. That night John mechanically disassembled the Ogden piece by piece, molecule by molecule. I have never been so terrified in my life...
Setbreak allowed for everyone to pick up the pieces of their faces and minds. We took the opportunity to move closer to the action, positioning ourselves right in front of the stage, Medeski side.
At the conclusion of the first set, Billy Martin announced that the second would be entirely improvised. In true MMW fashion the trio came out and using deep, dark, menacing jams, set the stage for the exploration that would be the second set. Between the disconnected drumming of Billy, the heavy jumbled low end of Chris and the idiosyncratic chops of John, my mind was blown. In and out of organization they went creating some of the most in-depth jams that I have heard in some time. The crowds reaction was positive and encouraging throughout the whole show as folks put their trust and attention into the band knowing that they would be led along with tasty little morsels of cohesion.
As the show began to wind down, so did we, making our way to the exit to beat the crowd. As always, I enjoyed MMW. There is no other band out there doing what MMW does... and with such world class musicianship. It's truly an honor to be in the presence of such greatness.