Winter Jazzfest ventured out to Bushwick's Brooklyn Steel on Wednesday night for a special evening with Medeski Martin and Wood and contemporary chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound. For nearly 30 years, MMW have trailblazed a singular path through jazz, funk, and improvised music that's brought them to some of the biggest festival stages in the world. And for the past 15 years, Alarm Will Sound has developed out-of-the-box crossover projects with everyone from Aphex Twin to Björk.
In 2014, AWS artistic director Alan Pierson approached MMW about the possibility of a new collaboration. The result was Omnisphere, recorded live in Denver in 2015 and released this past September on MMW's own imprint, Indirecto Records. In addition to new arrangements of tracks from MMWs 2004 release, End of the World Party (Just in Case), the album includes original compositions by longtime AWS members Caleb Burhans, Miles Brown and Payton MacDonald, as well as drummer Billy Martin's impressionistic "Coral Sea" (arranged by AWS trumpeter Jason Price).
The most memorable performance of the evening was Medeski's own composition, "Eye of Ra": a 20 minute journey through aleatory music, gamelan, free jazz, rock - basically, everything but the kitchen sink. At turns hushed and explosive, it was adventurous and challenging as anything I've ever heard, something I'd expect to hear at Roulette, or perhaps as an opener at the NY Phil. But, in music as with most things, everything is context, and at Brooklyn Steel the standing room only crowd of 2000-plus - including everyone from young hipsters to old Dead- and jazz-heads (and at least one world-famous composer) - greeted it with explosive cheers.
The show ended two hours after it began (not including a 20 minute intermission) with Martin conducting and improvisatory encore that included several participatory outbursts from the audience. (You can watch a sideways video of the last 30 secs here.)
More pics on the photo page.