Medeski, Martin & Wood recently finished their week-long residency of two shows per night at NYC’s Blue Note. Over the course of the week, the jazz trio brought along a different friend to play with each night. On the particular night that this writer made his way down to the Blue Note, the lead axeman of Wilco, Mr. Nels Cline, was set to join in the reindeer games. What ensued was a journey into the collective minds of four brilliant musicians coming together as one.
Beginning the set with some experimental noises, MMW and Cline wasted no time in finding the groove, wandering outside with some boundary-pushing ideas, and coming back around again, bringing those classic jazz yelps from the crowd. Leading this onslaught of some serous music was Chris Wood. His standup bass resonates, not just in your ear, but throughout your body. He is a master of “the pocket”, as he knows just when to bring the groove back throughout even the most experimental of free-form jams.
This set was a lesson in the art of listening. Jazz isn’t the easiest of genres to understand and wrap your head around. You need to sip on that cocktail, sit back, relax, close your eyes, and watch the music notes dance in your head as they are being played. With a group of such seasoned performers as MMW & Cline, this was a match made in heaven, as they all played so wonderfully off each other. With Medeski’s explorations into the free and funky, and Martin’s uncanny abilities on the skins (while making it all look so easy), anytime you see these guys you KNOW it is going to be good.
Cline is like Dr. Frankenstein on the guitar, as he always seems to be creating the next note from his genius mind. This may be experimentation, but there is some serious calculating going on; and what it adds up to is sheer brilliance. What these four musicians did during the second of two shows on this particular evening was difficult to call a standard “set” of music, as it may be more fitting to call it a Creation. This was all organic, all heady stuff for a crowd that showed much love and appreciation for the experience that MMW & Nels Cline gave on this Wednesday night in New York City.