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C.D. Reviews

MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD -
Friday Afternoon in the Universe compact disc
Gramavision / Rykodisc (GCD 79503)

John Medeski (organ, piano, Wurlitzer, clavinet), Billy Martin (drums, percussion) and Chris Wood (acoustic bass, harmonica, wood flute) comprise a very talented trio, playing jazz that strongly leans toward a sort of early proto-funk. Despite the fact that these three hail from New York City, the music has what I believe is a distinctly Southern flavor, bringing to mind Booker T. and the M.G.s and The Meters (especially the latter). I keep wondering what it is that separates this kind of jazz from funk at all (or perhaps why it even should be separate). I suppose it lies in the fact that this (and other jazz) is more intricate, and in this case, usually busier than the more bare-bones music of the aforementioned bands. Also, the trio leaves a little room for more cerebral experimentation, such as audio verite and a few dissonant passages.

While I enjoy this C.D., it just doesn't bite me on the ass like the band's live show does. I had the pleasure of seeing them in person and would have danced my fool hiney off, had there been any room to do so. Plus, it sure is impressive to see a touring band who lugs a Hammond organ and Leslie speaker cabinet around with them (not to mention watching the Leslie speaker in action). Curiously, the live shows do seem to summon forth a large number of Deadheads, perhaps because of a tendency to jam on-stage (Television drew similar Grateful Dead comparisons for the same reason).

At any rate... the C.D. is good, but if you get the chance, the live show is so much juicier.