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Published: 2012/07/11
by Steve Brienza

The Midnight Marauders (Deitch, Krasno, Hall and Smirnoff), Blue Note Jazz Club, NYC – 6/30

Photo by Allison Murphy

Halfway through their set at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City, Midnight Marauders keyboardist Nigel Hall grabbed the mic with the excitement of a child to let it be known that “this is the gig I have been waiting for my whole life.” Later in the set that statement was echoed by drummer extraordinaire Adam Deitch as he mentioned that nothing is better than being home, playing music with his best friends. When your best friends also include one of the busiest men in the scene, Erick Krasno and the ever so funky Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff, it makes it easy to be home and get deep into the pocket. Perhaps these guys should have called them selves “ The Underrated” or “Unsung Heroes” as each member is individually a seriously heavy hitter in the music industry at large but rather unknown to many a casual music fan. Between playing and touring with multiple bands, producing for the top artists of the day and helping build the Royal Family brand these guys are in the truest sense musical triathletes. Not only can each musician seamlessly shift from genre to genre they also can move away from their “main” instrument as was the case with Krasno who Deitch declared the best bassist he knows; not a statement to be taken lightly but by the nights end many fans were still raving about his abilities off the old 6 string.

Bringing it back to the funked up fusion of the 70’s the first couple tunes were taken from the Herbie Hancock song book and set the mood right off the bat. It didn’t take long for that look to start covering the faces of the Krasno fans as his fingers danced around the fret board and their jaws began to drop. Next Nigel requested the help of the lovely Alicia Chakour on vocals for a take on Greg Phillinganes “Baby, I Do Love You”. The highlight of that tune came during a short breakdown section with some hot riffing by Smirnoff as Nigel laced into the keys like a lunatic.

Finding it hard to stay away from the work of Herbie Hancock, next up was the exciting number “Actual Proof” which found Krasno above, under and in-between everything going on, especially jiving with the technicality of Deitch’s playing. Wailing away on the keys, Nigel painted the sonic sound space with a thick layer of funk/jazz which emanated from the stage and sank into the bobbing heads throughout the crowd. For “Try to do the right thing” the crew called upon the talents of Alicia once again and ripped into the funky groove that just wouldn’t quit. Opening the tune up a bit at times left Alicia with out much to contribute but some dancing feet however, with such a serious groove in the main theme of the song she sure as hell didn’t stand still for long. On the other hand, many in attendance were stone still as they watched in awe just how dynamic and tight this crew of friends really can be.

As the clock stretched into the A.M. hours it seemed as if the freaks decided to wake up and get down. Though better late than never, the crowd finally had enough of being polite and adhering to the asinine requests to stay seated. As “Hang It Up” got grooving, so did the crowd and before long a swaying mass of heads and bodies bumped shoulders and bounced to the beat under the blue glow of the neon lights. Knowing the night was coming to a close it was no surprise that the tune stretched out a bit and featured a couple of solo spots. In particular, a nice little breakdown by Deitch came toward the end while Krasno laid down some very meaty walkdowns and riffs throughout leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind that he can hold his own on four or six strings.

Ending the night with a tribute to Adam “MCA” Yauch via the classic Jimmy Smith tune “Root Down”, which Beastie Boys covered was priceless. Rarely heard in the live setting and done with justice, “Root Down” was on point. Adding some of their own flavor to the funk/fusion classic was to be expected but take was off the charts. Sometimes a classic tune can be taken on by unprepared or even unqualified musicians and literally dragged across the floor. However, The Midnight Marauders got nothing but respect for their craft and their forefathers which is evident by the choice covers they take on, their “original” tunes and even their namesake, taken right from the discography of the iconic NYC crew A Tribe Called Quest.

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