Review by J Hunter
Medeski Martin & Wood
Even though Greater Nippertown gets no mention in the liner notes to Medeski Martin & Wood’s latest disc Free Magic, we were one of a select set of guinea pigs the powerhouse trio used to test-drive the all-acoustic concept that will be on display this Saturday night at College of St. Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts in Albany. In fact, we got two bites of this apple – one in 2006, the other in 2007. Both shows were at The Egg’s Hart Theatre, and both shows made my Top 10 Concerts list for that respective year.
The thing is, though, while the 2006 show was one long, raucous two-set grooveathon – the legs on John Medeski’s Steinway grand piano nearly gave out during a blinding take on Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” (and, for once, I’m not speaking metaphorically) – the 2007 show was all about stretching the outside of the envelope until that sucker screamed for mercy. That tone is eminently reflected on Free Magic, and answers the main question I asked when I first heard MMW was going to play an all-acoustic show: “How are they going to do without half their instrumental arsenal?” The answer? “Swimmingly!”