Medeski’s Mad Skillet
UtopiaFest, Sat. November 3, 10pm
Renowned for modern jazz fusion outfit Medeski Martin & Wood (now running nearly three decades), John Medeski's final reckoning may be as one of the seminal collaborators and musical catalysts of our time. Case in point is the classically trained keyboardist's latest project, Medeski's Mad Skillet, which wrangles guitarist Will Bernard and Dirty Dozen Brass Band rhythm masters Terence Higgens and Kirk Joseph. The quartet kicks off its debut U.S. tour at UtopiaFest.
"It basically came from the late-night scene at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival," Medeski says of the project. "We've been doing sets there the past few years, and the band just felt so good and we had so much fun playing, I thought we needed to get out there and play for people."
The roadwork also aligns with the release of the group's recorded debut. A grooving, Crescent City funk platter, the eponymous release infuses the Meters with Sun Ra into a psychedelic barnstorm. Lead single "Invincible Bubble" even pulls on Austin connections through Brownout's horn section.
"When you make a record, it's a different statement," Medeski acknowledges. "With a band like this, the studio can be a great tool for composing tunes and capturing improvised moments to examine and turn into something stronger. For us, honestly, after we go back and listen to the recording, it really inspires us on the live gig to push even further.
"Everyone in the band is a really creative improviser and composer, and everybody's a producer, so when you have that mentality of a composer and a producer, and then improvise, you're not just jamming away. You're creating something. Playing with these guys is a blast.
"Everybody's got that intention of creating something."