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Published: 2009/03/06
by Scott Bernstein

Medeski Martin and Wood, 92Y Tribeca, NYC – 2/17

At the mouth of the outbound Holland Tunnel lies the 92Y Tribeca, where Medeski Martin and Wood kicked off a three-night run at intimate new venues in Downtown NYC on February 17. All three dates on the "Downtown Tour" had a theme – a gimmick that rallied the fanbase and led to three sold-out shows – and the 92Y Tribeca performance was billed as an acoustic performance. While the band returned to their roots geographically, MMW focused on material from the last few years during two deliciously groove-laden sets.

John, Billy and Chris took the stage shortly after 8 PM and launched into a pair of slick improvisations that acted as the perfect warmup for the band and the audience. Chris Wood ran his acoustic bass through an amp and often switched off to his electric bass, but no one was complaining. Most in the audience listened intently to each note except for a few drunken bad apples who couldn't keep their mouths shut. There were a few times the band sank their teeth into a groove and wouldn't let go for five or ten minutes, particularly during "Free Go Lily" and "Riffin' Ed," leading to wild applause from the spellbound crowd.

On this night the material focused on what the band has been working on over the past few years including material from last year's Radiolarians disc the trio put out on their independent Indirecto label and the upcoming Radiolarians II release. MMW also added their own spin to "Baby Goats" off of Will Bernard’s new LP which John Medeski guests on. "Rifion" and "Tutrusa’i" represented the Zaebos album on which the trio tackled John Zorn-written Masada songs as part of the Book of Angels series.

After two satisfying sets that were heavy on the groove and light on the noise, the band returned to play unstandard versions of two jazz standards. MMW connected well during their take on Duke Ellington's "Wig Wise" and each member got to show off their immense talents in the show closing "Caravan" cover. Medeski, Martin and Wood may have started in Downtown NYC but at the 92Y Tribeca they showed just how far they've come over the past 15 years.

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