Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood: Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT 11.14.06

Dropping into Vermont four shows into their 13 show tour, Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood truly gave the goods during their two set performance. They pillaged through tunes from both of the albums they’ve recorded together, 1998’s A Go Go, and the brand new, Out Louder.
For the A Go Go tour, back in September of ‘98, Clyde Stubblefield performed drum duties while Billy Martin celebrated his honeymoon. This time all 4 MSMW brethren were on board for the wild ride.  Going into the show I was thinking how odd it would  be to hear MMW perform together while not playing any of their signature compositions. During the first song that notion was given rest when they started the show with “New New Orleans,” a MMW original which debuted in the fall of 2005 and has been a live staple ever since. A good choice to do with Scofield because of it’s hard driving bluesy funkiness. Sco cut his musical teeth with the likes of Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Gerry Mulligan, and many other legends, and is a virtuoso not only of guitar technique, but of his many effects. He did though, at first, seem a little unsure where to fit himself into the groove, but as the tune was barreling along like a freight train barely able to keep from jumping the tracks, his uneasiness quickly went away.
They followed the opener with a trio of songs from Out Louder, the highlight of the three being the homage to Miles in the beautifully evil “Miles Behind.”  The song really has the feel of the 1970s Miles Davis groups in the heavy funk that could, at times, get scary in its magnificence. It became apparent during the changes during "Miles Behind," that this band relies heavily on lots of eye contact, along with all three musicians screaming to the others, in an almost primal way, to signal the musical changes.
The second set started off with Chris Wood slyly digging into Out Louder’s sexiest number “Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing.” The rest of the band slowly joined the party and by the four minute mark they all locked into a deep groove. “Tootie Ma” ended with an outer space sounding Medeski on melodica leading the group into the slow over drive of “In Case The World Changes It’s Mind” another Out Louder gem.  A couple more A Go Go songs followed, the wah wah chunky “Chank”, and spacey psychedelia of “Deadzy”. Both tunes were given full workouts with the combo clocking in at over 28 minutes.
Closing out the set were Out Louder’s  two cover tunes, The Beatles’, “Julia”, and the Peter Tosh ganja advocacy anthem “Legalize It”. The latter of the two, MMW has been stoking the embers of for the last three  years.
For the encore “Hottentot”, possibly the funkiest of all of the MSMW cuts, took the crowd on a nearly 15 minute roller coaster ride. A great encore choice with lots of hot break downs, passionate solos and deep deep funk. Which really was what the night was all about, the deeper the funk the better.

Contributing writer Joe Adler is a musician and freelance writer based out of Burlington, Vermont. He performs regularly with his band The Joe Adler Group.

Live Photos by Mike Wren

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