Earlier this fall two of the best jazz trios out there, The Bad Plus and Medeski, Martin & Wood, released new albums. The former’s studio effort, Made Possible, finds the band cutting through the sharp passages and beautiful moments we’ve come to expect from them, along with some branching beyond the purely acoustic aesthetic for the first time. The latter’s live album, Free Magic, is culled from an ’07 tour that found them eschewing their electric arsenal (or John’s anyway) for an all-acoustic show for the first time (for a full tour). Both releases are busy characterizing this autumn’s aural memories for me, and so we’ll turn to two full sets this week, one from each band, one new and one properly aged.
The first night of the relatively short tour in support of Free Magic found MMW in Fall River, a rather gloomy city perched on a hill, a city that boasts my favorite venue ever: The Narrows. The second floor of an old mill building, the Narrows is a warm, open, wooden space with pews for seating, views of the pier and an arching bridge above, and artists’ galleries in the back of the room. It is simply the coziest, best feeling room around, and as such it draws out spectacular performances. And recordings, like John Lynch’s capture of the night. Featured here is the first set, with its loose, open beginning, incredible versions of Illmoan and Down on Me, and a stunning take on Suspicious Minds to close.
From The Bad Plus comes a great set from a great tour: Paris from their first European outing. From the enticing lull of Film’s opening notes to the rollicking groove of Everywhere You Turn to the awesome Iron Man encore, it’s quintessential Bad Plus. The material and playing are so fresh and bright.
It’s a long one this week, so settle in and as always, enjoy!