It was a night of transcendent jazz as the uber-talented Medeski, Martin and Wood took the packed Kent Stage on an out-of-this-world music trip. The sometimes funky, sometimes serious, always amazing sounds veered from percussionist Billy Martin's African-inspired beats, hi-hat tapping and cowbell clunking to Chris Wood's electric and upright bass lines to John Medeski's effortless blend of organ and piano harmonies and keyboard sound effects.
MMW came onstage with no opener, launching into song after song featuring perfect rhythms, unpredictable beats and heart-thumping bass lines. Sounds included traditional jazz beats, alien-sounding beeps and eerie notes.
Before intermission, Chris Wood tapped, strummed, plucked and thumped his upright bass during a remarkable solo. Several songs featured a melodica, a funny-looking instrument that, when wielded by Medeski, turned into a magic wand of masterful sound.
The trio releases a three-disc box, Radiolarions Evolutionary Set, next week that includes much of the material they’ve been playing on tour. But fans are used to the group testing out new songs onstage. They played some last night, but who knows if they'll ever show up on record?
But three full hours of MMW still wasn't enough. As the guys ended their second set, bowed and left the stage, the audience barely budged. The full crowd, half of whom were already wedged around the stage, dancing and shaking all night long, screamed for more.
The relentless applause eventually brought the trio back for a calmer nightcap: one last extraordinary song to end a perfect show. —Crystal Pirri; photos by Mark A. Pirri