Review by J Hunter
The guy was sitting about a third of the way up the center section of seats in College of St. Rose’s Massry Center, meticulously setting up two small microphones on a tri-pod. Photographs may have been prohibited for John Medeski’s solo-piano show, but apparently digital recording was cool. No big whoop, really, since audience recording is as prevalent at Medeski Martin & Wood concerts as it was at Grateful Dead shows back in the day. But, as this young man was going to find out with the rest of us, this would not be an MMW show – not by a long shot.
Mind you, Medeski looked the same, coming out onstage in faded black jeans and wearing a rumpled grey jacket over his signature untucked Hawaiian shirt. (I’m thinking he wore the jacket because hey, this is kinda-sorta a piano recital, in a concert hall designed for such, so you have to be a little more formal.) Medeski also carried an armful of supplies with him: An extra-large bottle of water, a case just big enough for his Melodica and a small black satchel that could have carried sheet music. Medeski only touched the water during his 90-minutes-plus show, but I’m guessing he was being a good camper and preparing for every eventuality.
He definitely needed the water after his opening “number,” which started with the first notes of the title track from A Different Time (the solo-piano recording he released earlier this year) and ended with a brilliant reading of the MMW classic “Where’s Sly?” In between those two pieces, there was an unbroken 67-minute ride that went from bare-bones classical music to bawdy boogie-woogie, with hefty side orders of dark avant-garde thunder that must have made the brain inside the digital recorder think, “What the fuck are you DOING to me?” Another MMW piece – “Otis,” which closes A Different Time – was “somewhere in there,” as an out-of-breath Medeski told us after it was all over, but there were also old folk songs and Great American Songbook titles that either flew by so fast that you barely saw them, or were so transformed that they were barely recognizable.