Billy Martin

Mago

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Two-thirds of the famed avant-garde jazz-groove fusion trio Medeski, Martin & Wood celebrate a nearly two-decade long relationship on this free for all, high-spirited collection of duets recorded in July of 2006. While there is no question that Martin is an inventive drummer and few can top Medeski for pure Hammond B-3 genius, the two launch their unique side project in a strangely off-putting way. If the frenetic, melody free and insanity-filled opening track is "Introducing Mago," then Mago is a schizophrenic, loudmouthed character who won't make many friends. Fortunately, the two settle down into something that resembles sensible music for most of the rest of the set, building a cool, hypnotic groove on "Crustaceatron" that is trippy and out there, but at least more conventionally structured. They finally hit pay dirt on the jumpy and playful "Mojet," which -- like the similarly throbbing "Bamboo Pants" -- sounds like a throwback to the funky old-school soul-jazz of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, with a few modern, percussive twists. They then take the listener to church for a spell on the brooding "Apology." Most of the collection is both engaging and inventive, but of course -- knowing that it's the true fans who will be listening -- Martin and Medeski choose another wacky, crazymaking assault to close the set, this one titled "L'Aventura." The recommendation for all who are not in the cult of M,M&W and thus won't forgive them their indulgences: skip the opener and closer and get grooving with the cool stuff in between.

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