The Trio: Chris Wood, Skerik, Johnny Vidacovich, Mexicali Blues, Teaneck NJ- 5/19
I arrived at the club rather early this night, and was able to observe the trio warming up and grooving for the geeks. A crowd of about twenty or so people watched as Chris Wood, Skerik, and Johnny Vidacovich got the juices flowing. I was amazed at the small turnout for this show, as I thought Chris Wood debuting a new side project in the New York area would draw a larger crowd. Nonetheless, those that were in attendance knew what they were in store for.
Delivering an MMW-esque "we can swing one second, lay it down the next" style, Skerik seemed to substitute for John Medeski in the role of primary noisemaker. Not to say his sound was cacophonous, rather that he set the texture for most of the night while his band mates played their roles as beat makers. I could almost read peoples minds as they walked into the club thinking, "It is that a guitar? It sure looks like a saxophone."
The musician I was least familiar with, Johnny V from Nawlins – fresh off Jazz Fest gigs with George Porter Jr., the guys from Jacob Fred, and his band Astral Project – provided a firm yet tasteful backbone to the evening.
Starting off with Wood on acoustic bass, and Johnny on brushes, the light consistency played to a room of quiet, attentive listeners. The first song-movement-moment of the night lasted about forty-five minutes, and ranged from ambient to swing to hard backbeat molasses grooves. Johnny V said it reminded him of a session he did a while back where one of the cuts was entitled, "The Long Song."
Within minutes of pulling out his electric, Wood broke a string funny how that always happens but kept things rolling until the moment came where he could switch things up. Often it is moments like those that separate the seasoned professional from the amateur. A speeding locomotive could come crashing through the wall and take out half the club, but those on stage are so locked into everything, they wouldn't even notice. It reminds me of a time at Berkfest 2003, when during the late night sessions power went out. The Slip not only continued to perform without missing a beat, but actually intensified their output, with Andrew Barr taking lead.
During the night Johnny pulled the microphone down to sing a few times one with the only phrase being "I don't know," repeated many times. The singing added some variety to the performance, however many in attendance were not altogether enthusiastic about his vocal contributions.
It was obvious that the group appreciated the politeness of the crowd, as for most of the performance they remained silent and respectful. It felt as if this atmosphere really helped them get into things dynamically as they were not afraid of being overpowered by a talking bar crowd when bringing things down a notch. The interplay throughout the night was brilliant, and I'm sure the "nowhere to hide" atmosphere of playing in a trio helped this aspect. These musician all have their own solid projects that they work and tour with, but they feel comfortable jumping into the unknown and making it happen. With seemingly fewer bands/musicians doing that these days, it is refreshing to see actual cats who not only feel comfortable on the fly, but live for it.