Medeski, Martin, and Wood
Last Chance to Dance Trance (perhaps)
Best of (1991-1996)
First Appeared at The Music Box, April 2000, Volume 7, #4
Written by John Metzger
Like Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Medeski, Martin & Wood draws from a rich palette of musical styles, and it fuse them together into wildly acrobatic instrumental excursions. Where Fleck pulls from the rich tradition of bluegrass, however, it’s the fertile hotbed of soul and jazz that drives Medeski, Martin & Wood’s grooves — so much so that the outfit has more in common with the likes of Jimmy Smith and Thelonious Monk than the jam bands with which it often is more closely associated.
Last Chance to Dance Trance combines the best that Medeski, Martin & Wood has to offer. In doing so, the album not only provides a wonderful overview of the collective's recorded works, but it also serves as an excellent introduction to the band. A retooled rendition of Chubb Sub sparkles with energy. Here, bassist Chris Wood slaps out a rhythm that pulses with electricity as it runs against the radiant Hammond B-3 organ chords delivered by John Medeski. Likewise on the title track, the group toys with percussive grooves, folding one on top of another, while shifting the melody line between bass, organ, and piano. In addition, the collective mutates gospel into its own image on Is There Anybody Here That Love Me Jesus, and it brilliantly merges Bob Marley’s reggae classic Lively Up Yourself into Monk’s Bemsha Swing.
This is the kind of music upon which the entire jam band genre is based. Yet, so few groups within the style actually seem to understand it. Medeski, Martin & Wood gets right to the heart of free-flowing improvisation in order to deliver an exhilarating ride across a boundless metaphysical terrain. Despite the fact that it really is just a cleverly packaged jazz band that tinkers with popular styles, many groove rock fans have rabidly jumped on the bandwagon and joined Medeski, Martin & Wood's burgeoning scene. Why not? The outfit has a lot to offer, even if its influences remain a tad too obvious.
Last Chance to Dance Trance (perhaps): Best of (1991-1996)
is available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2000 The Music Box