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Live Reviews

Confirmation: The 2004 Telluride Jazz Celebration

By Published: October 6, 2004
The musical contrasts in the festival are what provide for the energy to keep up with it all. Seeing a straight ahead set in the afternoon, and then venturing to sweat and rage at Hairy Apes BMX show until the morning, is the perfect spark that starts you going, and that fuel that keeps you from missing one note . It is also being able to draw the similarities from these worlds, as they reach in and grab things from each other. The festival is growing "out" as well, and musical boundaries have become more spacious and less defined. The roots are the same, the principles are the same, the arts are the same, but the methods are now unconventional.

The grass is always greener on the other side of the generational hill. Children of the 70's wish they had the flower power, summer of love and revolutionary freedoms of the 60's. Children of the 80's wish they had the free spirited, disco shaking, side burns of the 70's. The 90's babies wish they were part of the 80's cheese spectacular, with teased hair, belts in the middle of shirts, and the electric keyboard-guitar. We await the demands of the new era. Sometimes the scales shift with musicians, who favor a certain era based on the music that was produced then. When I walked back into the Sheridan Opera house on Saturday night August, 7, 2004, the greatest of generational worlds had collided musically.

Medeski, Martin and Wood, Skerik, Mike Dillon and Larry Coryell all engaged in a giant grooving, "ripping" conversation. As I walked into the room, I felt as though I was walking into a "meeting of the minds". I could almost relate to Luke Skywalker, walking in on Vader and Obi-wan Kenobi in the midst of a fierce Jedi battle. There was only so much I could absorb at once, as the depths and layers behind what I had heard, was and still is something that will continue to unfold throughout this lifetime. Coryell had sweat on his brow, and his guitar had a distorted crunch that I had only heard on earlier fusion albums. There was a strong presence in "the force", and I felt it. The show was in Skerik's name, "Skerik and Friends", and he acted and psycho-pseudo-conductor for the set. Once Adam Rogers and Chris Potter arrived, the youthful audience seemed ready for the roof itself to lift-off. The interplay was electrifying and explosive. The rhythm and grooves were deep, while Medeski, Coryell, Potter, Rogers and Skerik shrieked and toyed with one another.

The crowd stood in awe for minutes as the lights came on in the theater. Strangers looked at each other in the eyes and shook their head with a nod of delight and shrug of "What just happened?" I bumped into Uncle Larry near the theater's entrance where he leaned on my shoulder and said, "That was your stuff! Whooo! Like putting on an old shoe!" I laughed and smiled in admiration and appreciation for his connection and encouragement, but the music I heard was really "their stuff". It was surely my taste, and it was music that I would love to achieve, but with Medeski, Martin and Wood as a core, this performance was masterful music for a "jellyfish" soul. It has no form, no rigid expectations or boundaries. It just moved, and makes you move.

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Part 11: Medeski Martin and Wood

During their performance that night, and on the main stage, I thought about how there was really something to be said for seeing Medeski, Martin and Wood many times. It may even be a maturity factor that allows you to get to the real core of "the chaos". It just may be an acquired taste that gets better with understanding. On the contrary, it is not to say that it is not simple to get turned on to MMW. Oddly enough, it is almost impossible not to.

Medeski is the Jimi Hendrix of the electric keyboard, stretching the soundscape far beyond its current range. He acts like a mad scientist, watching over his creation, as he furiously and energetically utilizes synthesizers, amplifiers, effects processors, samplers, (breath), and of course his Hammond, Rhodes, Clavinet and Piano. Multi-tasking at all times, and operating every limb and thought independently, he lays down grooves, licks, and epic solos that overflow with authenticity. Since the group's inception, Chris Wood has emerged as one of the most cohesive and complementary bassists, as he can support any decision, and any direction as though it were all seamlessly rehearsed. And of course, Billy Martin has defined his own style as a percussive master. His effect on music has been contagious, as almost every drummer after Martin has taken or learned something from him. Even those before him stand to learn something from his ways. There are not enough reviews for a group like Medeski, Martin and Wood, nor enough words. After all that stands, this groups tears down conventional thought and invisible boundaries with every performance. Their arrival at this year's Jazz Celebration was a welcomed one, and was surely fitting with such a roster.

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