Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Medeski Martin & Wood's Billy Martin takes over Orlando with big-name friends

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 2:47 PM

click to enlarge Ingrid Sertso, Karl Berger, Doug Mathews and Billy Martin at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Ingrid Sertso, Karl Berger, Doug Mathews and Billy Martin at the Timucua White House
THIS LITTLE UNDERGROUND
Billy Martin and Karl Berger & Friends, Timucua, Feb. 17

Even by the Civic Minded 5's already exclusive standard, this was a special engagement. The heavyweight New York State jazz cabal of Karl Berger, Ingrid Sertso and Billy Martin have recently descended on Orlando to mix it up and make a little noise around town. And of course, the CM5 and the Timucua Arts Foundation were in on the action.

click to enlarge Billy Martin - LIZ PENTA
  • Liz Penta
  • Billy Martin
This night’s main event was Billy Martin, one of the most acclaimed and important percussionists of his generation. The legendary Medeski Martin & Wood drummer performed a suite of his newest solo work (Disappearing). Across nearly 45 nonstop minutes of beat and shake, he worked a wide-ranging palette, traversing a galaxy of percussion instruments in an adventure that was by turns mercurial, playful, seeking and hungry.

click to enlarge Billy Martin at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Billy Martin at the Timucua White House
He opened with a live-looped union that sounded like a dance between a wind chime orchestra and drums. In another captivating and much more elemental sequence, Martin explored the acoustical topography of the room through a tambourine and its interactions with the various mics in the room and the space itself. As he roamed around the stage, he made his way over to the piano and incorporated it into his set’s narrative. Beyond that were examinations with a panoply of other sounds and percussive media.

click to enlarge Billy Martin at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Billy Martin at the Timucua White House
But it was on the standard drum kit during the finale where Martin demonstrated his fiercest dynamics. Shifting intensity from quiet acrobatics to full blitzing alarm in whiplashing turns, the effect was both jarring and exhilarating.



click to enlarge Billy Martin at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Billy Martin at the Timucua White House
click to enlarge Billy Martin at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Billy Martin at the Timucua White House
Rather than some extended drum solo or exhibition, Martin's performance was a full musical journey, one far more expansive and interpretive than pop conceptions of rhythm. He never flinched in pushing the edge, perhaps knowing he always had a proven pocket to return to. It was bold in quest and experimentation with lots of on-the-spot inspiration, but always sparking with sophisticated flair. Seeing a master at work is always a delight. But seeing one on the high wire like this is a thrill.

click to enlarge Ingrid Sertso, Karl Berger, Doug Mathews and Billy Martin at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Ingrid Sertso, Karl Berger, Doug Mathews and Billy Martin at the Timucua White House
Also on the bill were Karl Berger & Friends, who brought it home with the jazz. These particular friends were the accomplished crew of Ingrid Sertso (vocals, poetry), Martin himself (percussion) and distinguished local Doug Mathews (Sam Rivers' longtime bassist). Berger led with his limber but commanding style on both piano and vibes. Mathews' exceptionally expressive bass work was light years beyond mere rhythm. Alongside, Martin once again kept things out on the fringe with his expansive textures and technique.

click to enlarge Ingrid Sertso at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Ingrid Sertso at the Timucua White House
And in her delivery, the crucial Sertso didn't just lay words atop the tapestry but matched the other players' dynamism with tailored jazz cadence and breathy elasticity. Together, they slipped back and forth from well-oiled ensemble to open interplay with courage and poise.

click to enlarge Ingrid Sertso, Karl Berger and Doug Mathews at the Timucua White House - BAO LE-HUU
  • Bao Le-Huu
  • Ingrid Sertso, Karl Berger and Doug Mathews at the Timucua White House
Follow Bao on Twitter (@baolehuu)
Email Bao: baolehuu@orlandoweekly.com

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