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Published: 2006/11/24
by Dan Alford

Solo (Almost)

Quick Picks:
1) Ratdog, 11/3/06- Great Playing sandwich
2) Hot Tuna, 12/31/97- The Sears/Sorgen/Flazarrano band at its best
3) Wayne Shorter Quartet, 7/1/01, Sweden
4) WSP, 10/30/06- Unreasonably great show
5) Ravi Shankar, Live at Monterey Perennial afternoon listening

John Medeski, Merkin Concert Hall, NYC 11/2/06
This recent solo Medeski show was on the night before the MSMW tour, and is exactly the stunning performance that you would expect- John and a grand piano in a large room. The opening improv is loaded with heavy banging and quiet, pensive moments placed back to back- but it contains a short bout of two handed madness early on that sounds like three pianists at once. He trills right into a jazzy, flighty Evidence so that pair sounds like an overture, including the full spectrum of mans compass. Out of this World is just that, starting low and then rocketing into a fantastic one man boogie, the mans hands overlapping and pouncing as he charges up to the apex and falls into a playful shimmy that turns beautiful to take it out. It segues right back into the opening improv, with racing, cartoonish lines that repeatedly crash and tumble, stagger up and do it all again.
The recording captures some of the space of Merkin, and a nice set of speakers turned up to 11 will really add to the listening experience- this is music that flourishes when there is room to breath. The madness builds to a head and deflates into Cryptical hot off the Vegoose shows with Phil and Trey. Medeski gropes around the tune, giving it more melancholy mood that belies the triumphant stature it has acquired in the last seven or eight years. The song opens into a nice, very MMW style groove that roles and roars and plays stoopid- funny that the trios sound would show its full face only in a GD cover. It bleeds right into a heavy dirge of a Hey Joe. You can almost hear the shuffle of brushes on a drumhead between the notes. The encore has Kid Koala, who shared the bill, sitting in for something more of an atmospheric construction than a song, even though the dj repeatedly tries to pull it together with rather full samples. The final track is a more engaging blues duel that has each musician taunting and toying with the other, eventually overlapping at the end for a lil funktion- there is some laughter at the turns and it must have been great to see their faces. Recommended listening.

John Bell (and John Keane), One Love Music Hall, Athens, Georgia 3/7/03
Im totally hung up on this great soundboard of the Bell and Keane show. The set list is stellar, the playing is stellar, the recording is stellar. JB is growling it out on the opening Show on the Road, setting the tone for the whole set- its earthy and open, especially towards the end when he repeats the chorus over and over and over. Radio Child is also a stand out, a tight little boogie that holds up better than you might expect without the backbeat. Keanes guitar work is superb and perfectly balanced- at times he pulls out gorgeous, lifting solos reminiscent of David Gilmour, or to be more precise, David Gilmours studio work. Its clean and headspinning all at once. Mercy has a different move than most WSP acoustic versions Ive heard, and like everything else is bit more open ended. The cover of Jorma Kaukonens Genesis is a stupendous addition, although JB cant quiet snap out those quick picking lines with the grace and punch of Hot Tuna. Still, just a wonderful warm show- hell, its worth for all the banter alone.
Steve Kimock and Fareed Haque, HSMF 7/2/05
This 80 minute set for a workshop in the California hills is a very evenly balanced mix of material from both guitarists, guitarists who couldn’t be any more different in tone or approach, and who seem to be genuinely inspired by each other. In fact, after hearing this set, an album would come as no surprise, especially considering Fareed’s steady pace in the studio. The recent Fareed Haque Group release, Cosmic Hug, even includes ‘fh/sk’, also known as ‘FHSK Jam’, co written with Kimock.
The gig opens with a whispery, languorous ‘Junct’. Not the barnburner it often is with Garaj Mahal, it is, while beautiful, best appreciated as part of the overall scope and sequence of the set. Beginning quietly, if not delicately, the duo cover a range of material before shaking a little shimmy and leaping into serious freeform playing. An improv > Neil Young’s ‘Helpless’ is amazing, something akin to SKB interpretations of ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ and ‘Stella Blue’. ‘La Petite Groove’ is especially nice. On the on stage mic source (the soundboard is also available on LMA) Steve and Fareed can be heard discussing the songs before they play and telling each other when to solo. It’s totally unrehearsed and yet the groove at the end of ‘Groove’ is so damn groovy. The set is capped with a stunning ‘Favorite Things’- 20 minutes with two acoustic guitar, and a great introduction wherein Fareed says he first heard Alan Hertz play on a KVHW version of the song.

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