Notes from the Underground

Medeski, Martin & Wood

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Notes from the Underground Review

by Richard S. Ginell

Before they went electric and funky, John Medeski, Billy Martin, and Chris Wood were acoustic and funky -- and a lot of other things -- on this exciting early CD. They ruminate like a conventional jazz piano trio when the whim hits them, or move outside when Medeski explodes into Don Pullen-esque clusters. Their m├ętier, though, was clearly the neo-funk thing, for when Martin pulls off those crackling hip-hop and M-Base-related beats on tracks like "Uncle Chubbs" and "Orbits," the band really achieves liftoff. "Caravan" gets a rolling New Orleans funk treatment, and the finale, "Querencia," is a lengthy excursion into dense avant-garde underbrush with a touch of the street in the beat. On several tracks, a three-brass, two-reeds horn section add an extra level of excitement, and the trio tracks are recorded live to DAT (hence the exceptionally crisp sound).

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