Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood@The Vic Theater- 12/13/14
Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood have never been on the cover of Rolling Stone. They don’t dress particularly cool. I doubt any of them have sexed any models or trashed a hotel room. Its quite likely you don’t know much about them. If you like songs with lyrics and without guitar wanking…this isn’t your shit.
Or so I thought.
What MSMW lack in style points they make up for with chops. SERIOUS, SERIOUS CHOPS. It should be no wonder that the band is comprised of some heavy hitting jazz players and one groovy-ass, also-very-jazzy drummer. John Scofield has played guitar with everyone from Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock to Mavis Staples and John Mayer. John Medeski (Keys), Billy Martin (Drums) and Chris Wood (Bass) have been a widely-respected, genre- blending jazz entity for two decades. They’ve backed up both Iggy Pop and Natalie Merchant. Yes, you read that last sentence correctly.
Name dropping aside and vocalists be damned, MSMW get the Vic rocking on an unusually warm December night. Although the first 5 minutes of the set seems like an elaborate sound check, once Martin settles into the first of many tasty grooves, its off to the races. There’s plenty of your classic jazz that’s interesting yet difficult to even nod your head to, but the set flows nicely as the “preservation of the only original American art form” is broken up nicely by danceable funky grooves. Scofield noodles all over the place, but it goes well with the unhinged-yet-airtight MMW backing him up.
The crowd looks like what I expected: early 30s-mid 50s white dudes who look like they either love weed and jam bands or hang out at guitar center nerding out over gear. Yet, much like the band onstage, they are also rocking harder than their appearance would indicate. They hoot and holler with every insanely complicated solo and boogie down to every jam. Naturally, I join them. I expected the balcony to be seated and people to clap politely at each break. What I got was drunk people rocking the fuck out. Its also hot as balls in the venue due to the previously mentioned un-chicago-ly warm December weather, which just makes the whole experience even more New Orleans throw-down than black tie charity auction cocktail hour.
Scofield makes ridiculous guitar faces and Medeski doesn’t even seem to be aware that he’s on the same stage as his bandmates half the time (he faces the back of the stage a lot), but it just works. Scofield still comes off like some sort of giant guitar wizard, Martin makes his modest kit into a symphony of drums and Wood bounces along perfectly all the while. Medeski balances his time well by playing mind-bending, beautiful pieces, and funk-slapping the SHIT out of a grand piano. It is a truly wonderful combination.
I didn’t leave the Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood show planing an iTunes downloading binge of their albums or rocking one of their t shirts (not sure they had any). I won’t hang their poster on my wall (again, existence uncertain) or draw their logo on my notebook (then again, only 4 letters), but I will see them every time they return to Chicago which, by all indications, is quite often. They taught me two things. 1) Being open minded to a new kind of music is the most freeing, rock n’ roll thing you can do and 2) Judging bands by the way they look is foolish and douche-y.
Thanks MSMW. I hope a model has sex with one of you.
Won’t take my word for it? Good Call. Thanks to TheFunkItBlog Youtube thingy, you can see their sets here:
Written by Alt360º Blogger: Jason Polakowski