Arts & Entertainment, The Muse

Medeski Martin and Wood

Synth rock. Dirty funk. Coffeehouse jazz.’ Instrumental soul.’ For a single group to not only dabble in but excel at all these varieties of music proves that genre-crossing bands, or even genre-creating ones, are as much a force in music as ever before.

Medeski Martin and Wood is that band that combines all the elements.’ Every influence can be heard throughout any show, poked at and expanded until it becomes a swirling tour-de-force that is bursting with the MMW signature sound ‘- layered keys from John Medeski, driving bass from Chris Wood and schizophrenically intricate drumming from Billy Martin.’ It’s all there in some way, and the band’s two and a half hour show at the House of Blues Friday night showcased the wide range of their abilities.

The first set got off to an early start, and as the band took the stage around 8:30 large numbers of the crowd were still stuck in lines outside the House of Blues waiting to get in.’ Whether the solution to this problem lies in a more streamlined approach by the House of Blues to getting fans into the venue or having later set times a la the Paradise is unclear, but it serves as a warning to all future fans that if you don’t want to be left out in the cold, get there early.

Regardless, the band found their groove quickly and the interplay between the trio was stunning to see.’ MMW’s foundation is jazz, and the communication built between Medeski and Wood from their days at the New England Conservatory of Music is evident to see.’ However, they never stay in one place very long, and Medeski’s dissonant keyboards quickly took over.

Surrounded by pianos, keyboards, a melodica and his ever-present organ, Medeski layered intertwining lines throughout the jams as Wood and Martin pushed the rhythm.’ With an almost constant shifting of time signatures and musical themes, it often seemed that no one in the crowd quite knew what the trio were up to until they all hit on the same theme at once with an unspoken sense that all great bands have.

Wood, switching back and forth between electric and standup acoustic basses, delved into a distorted slide bass groove that was as unique as it was powerful, taking the reins from Medeski and leading the jams.’ Martin, meanwhile, ties the entire project together with his constantly changing and always impressive drumming.’ At one point in the second set, Martin went off on a near twenty-minute drum solo that sent heads spinning.’ All three musicians push the limits of their instruments, but Martin might just be the most impressive of the trio.

In between busting out with some of the irresistible funk grooves for which the band is known, MMW broke it down into a slow jam that suggested Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ in its sexiness and intent.

Whether flitting through brand new songs off their 3-CD staggered release Radiolarians (Indirecto), which will be combined into a box set to be released later this month, or traditionals such as ‘Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down,’ MMW brings a fresh approach to every song every night.’ Three hours after the crowd began to trickle in, Medeski Martin and Wood danced them back out with two funky, experimental and instrumental sets that never got old.

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