Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood: Calvin Theater, Northampton, MA 11/12/06

When Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood, kicked off their night of funked out jazz at Northampton Mass’ Calvin Theater, it was obvious to everyone in the house that gimmicks and stage antics weren’t on the agenda. Instead, quality musicianship was the quartet’s goal, and world-class technique was what they came to deliver.

When MMW initially hooked up with jazz-guitar virtuoso John Scofield on his 1998 release, A Go Go, they did so as his back-up band. This time around, all four were touring across the country on the heels of Medeski, Scofield, Martin, and Wood’s first group-effort release, Out Louder and the ball was in MMW’s court and Scofield was playing by their rules.  The quartet tore through two sets of tunes at the Calvin that sounded as though the abstract instrumental intricacy of Bitches Brew had  cross-pollinated with the catchy, funkified rhythms George Clinton honed with Parliament Funkadelic.

With any act, musical improvisation has always been an act of conversation, and nobody proves this better than MSMW. As the semi-super-group worked their way into the set, John Scofield and John Medeski began arguing on stage through the voice of guitar and organ. While the group’s two prominent voices dueled it out, bassist Chris Wood, and drummer Billy Martin held down a solid groove that allowed Scofield and Medeski to call-and-respond to their hearts content.

For a trio who tours extensively, incorporating a fourth member can be tricky, but at the Calvin, MMW presented played as though John Scofield had been on their side since the beginning. With the recent success of Out Louder, it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing the S in MSMW for another round.

Photo by Mike Wren

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