Black rimmed Ray Bans and a 10pm hit set the atmosphere as Ben Williams steps onto the bandstand. He picks up his bass and pauses. After a moment of silent conversation, he raises his head and begins to play.
Phrases bubble over the moments between moments, but the presence of pulse is deliberate. Each player embraces a collective exploration that has become a distinctive part of the band’s identity, but wherever they chase the harmony, they follow the same lead.
“It’s kind of the DNA of my music,” says Williams. “As a bass player, that's kind of the world I live in- the groove.”
In January of 1999, Medeski, Martin, and Wood held a series of five shows at the Bowery Ballroom with a number of guests featured at each show. The shows were held as part of Blue Note’s 60th anniversary, as MMW had recently signed to the label and released their Combustication album. (For kicks, go ahead and compare Blue Note at 60 with Blue Note at 75 from last year.) There are many highlights from this set of five shows, but I recently re-listened to the January 16th recordings and was much impressed with "Scrontch Meister," a Bob Moses-penned tune that the trio played only during this run as far as I can find and whose title probably provokes either a love or hate reaction - well, you’ll probably want to check out the music either way. While the Bowery shows featured many guests, this tune is just John Medeski on keys, Billy Martin on drums, and Chris Wood on bass, playing a really great version of their groove-heavy jazz on a catchy tune that deserves a re-visit. Audio courtesy of The Shack Project, which has the whole January 16th show (and plenty of other live MMW) streaming here. (Stick with them for the nice improv that follows "Scrontch Meister" featuring Oren Bloedow on guitar.)
It's hard to believe June 30th, 2015 was Snarky Puppy's first time performing at the Montreal Jazz Festival; they filled the 2300-capacity Métropolis Theatre like a veteran act. That's not to say that Snarky Puppy hasn't been around for a while (they formed in 2004) or that they haven't performed in Montreal before (they have, several times), but after winning a Grammy in 2014, the collective seems to be just hitting their stride. Their Montreal show was their 20th concert in 21 days, and the final stop of their North American tour.
In a few weeks, the 40th edition of the three-day North Sea Jazz Festival (Friday July 10 - Sunday July 12) will kick off. Held in the Ahoy halls in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, North Sea Jazz Festival is one of the biggest and internationally most renowned jazz festivals on the European continent. In this first post of two on the festival, I will highlight a number of interesting acts.
On Monday, June 29, 2015 at the 36th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, I went to hear two quartets led by two of the most influential guitarists of our time: the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet featuring Aaron Parks (piano and Fender Rhodes), Eric Revis (upright bass), and Allan Mednard (drums) and the John Scofield / Joe Lovano Quartet with Larry Grenadier (upright bass) and Bill Stewart (drums).