062810 Medeski Martin & Wood, Ottawa, ON

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Can it be that June 28th, 2010 was the last time I saw Medeski Martin & Wood?  Sitting here nearly a dozen years later I find this difficult to believe but after a half-hour of lackadaisical flipping through ticket albums and websites (activities that skim the perilous line between “research” and “procrastination”) it seems to be true.  This dubious fact stands even when I add Scofield to the mix; the one time I saw an official Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood set was two years before this in Florida, though I did see Sco play with MMW at Metropolis way back in 2003, but he was more of a featured guest at the time and less of an actual band member, like that makes a difference.  

You see all the procrastisearch I’ve done?  Heck, it’s getting on to lunchtime already.

Anywho, this show was on the main stage at the Ottawa jazz festival – the only time I recall them being booked at Ottawa jazz fest, which is rather surprising* – and it was great.  I can’t tell you any of the songs they played but then, one rarely could.  Though MMW does indeed have actual songs their main thing is improvising, and whether they are freely decorating the electricity of the air between them or exploring one of their pre-composed pieces and jamming it into new and expansive territory you’re probably not going to walk away from the concert whistling any melodies.  Which is unimportant.  Sure, sticky tunes are cool but they ain’t always the thing.  Sometimes the thing is sonic psychic symbiosis, and Medeski, Martin & Wood excel at exactly that sort of musical meditative meld.  And I don’t know about you, but to witness three musicians blending into a single jamjazz multi-beast for a ninety-minute non-stop musical ride is enough entertainment for me on a Monday night.

When they did finally stop playing they ducked briefly into the shadows and emerged for their encore, but not before coaxing a rousingly mumbled Happy Birthday from the mid-sized crowd aimed at keyboardist and bandleader (in the name, at least), John Medeski, who had just turned…let me see…research research research…forty-five years old.  Hmm, just a year-and-a-half my senior.

It’s curious to note that John Scofield wasn’t playing with the trio on this night or at least sitting in, as he had just played the same stage twenty-four hours earlier.  I guess he had already scurried off to Montreal or Toronto for one of their jazz festivals.

As I sit here mid-covid (late-covid? early-covid?) perched on the far edge of the continent I wonder if I’ll ever see Medeski, Martin &/or Wood (or Scofield for that matter) again?

All i can say is stay tuned.  I know I will.

*The only other time I saw MMW in Ottawa was a show at the National Arts Centre that occurred in the very un-jazz fest month of October.  And though the concert wasn’t part of the Ottawa jazz festival, according to the ticket stub the concert was presented by NAC-CNA** & OTT. JAZZ FEST. so there’s that I suppose.  Oh, the research!  And you guys think I just tear these things off the top of my head every day.  

**Oh, Canada and our official bilingualism…Believe it or don’t, in order to avoid any potential linguistic confusion the actual name of Canada’s National Arts Centre is “National Arts Centre – Centre National des Arts”, hence: NAC-CNA.  While some may consider such a title appropriately “inclusive” I think it’s insulting to the French.  Like they couldn’t figure out that National Arts Centre means Centre National des Arts.  One thing for sure: the official name is a mouthful.

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