On Thursday night I had the great pleasure to see John Medeski play a solo piano concert at one of the nicest venues in Boston, at the Institute of Contemporary Art. I always look forward to their high-quality sound, perfect sightlines and a generally beautiful room (and view). They also have a special free admission on Thursday nights, so I was able to leave straight from work, get there early and check out some contemporary art before the show. I also got there early enough to get the best seat in the house!
I’d seen Mr. Medeski play a solo set before, about two years ago at Lilypad (you can watch most of that set on Youtube; a collaboration between my camera footage, the footage of the person sitting next to me, and his friend’s audio recording). I’d really enjoyed that performance, so I was fully expecting something really good this time around. The concert at the ICA started out in a fairly similar vein to the Lilypad set, but after he got warmed up it seemed like this set was at a higher level – it may well be one of the very best piano-based jazz sets I’ve ever seen. Dynamic, interesting, and fun. He was very animated – tapping his foot almost constantly, murmuring/humming along with the music as he played, sometimes even standing up from the piano bench for a moment without missing a beat. He performed for close to two hours with almost no breaks – just a couple of very brief stops for applause. His stamina alone was impressive!
He touched on a number of different styles in his performance – classic and modern, heavy and light, extended techniques and more traditional jazz playing. I captured about forty minutes on video, including these two short pieces and a longer section you can find on my Youtube page.
At the end of his set he received an enthusiastic standing ovation, and after briefly claiming that he would not play an encore (which was sort of understandable after the marathon performance we’d just seen) he agreed to do one more quick piece for an encore.
Mr. Medeski has just finished a short series of solo concerts, so if you didn’t catch any of those you may be out of luck for the time being – but he does have lots of other non-solo concerts on the calendar, including a week-long residency at the Stone in February. (I’m already checking hotel room pricing for the Medeski/Ribot/Weston night…) You can check out all of his tour dates by clicking here.
Bonus material: Mr. Medeski did a short interview with local radio station WBUR, which you can listen to here: