Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Medeski, Martin and Wood - Radiolarians III (Indirecto, 2009)

Conceived and written during recent tours and recorded while still fresh, this third and presumably final album in the series finds the group expanding their comfortable funky jazz niche to include elements of gospel and avant-classical. Consisting of keyboard player John Medeski, drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood, the group opens the album with "Chantes Des Femmes" which begins in a mid-tempo organic groove before shifting easily through sections of piano/bass duet and ruminative and dark solo piano. Their arrangement of the ancient gospel standard "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" was quite interesting, opening with Medeski on acoustic piano, plumbing the low end of the keyboard, before Wood's bass kicks in heavy and distorted speaking in tongues over a nasty backbeat. "Kota" has some gently tinkling piano and plucked string instrument building slow and trance like with bursts of free improvisation built in like summer showers rolling over the landscape. "Undone" and "Wonton" reel the experimentation back in, with the former using a pop music construction with the organ and deep, thick bass featuring wah-wah moving the music in a decidedly psychedelic rock feel. "Wonton" is a blast of straight old-school organ trio groove, a nice nod to Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff, and other pioneers of the format. "Walk Back" keeps the groove hot, like a heavy, thick stew propelled by hot percussion. "Jean's Scene" changes things up a little bit, with Medeski moving back to the piano and using a Latin/salsa motif to spin out a mellow improvisation. "Broken Mirror" takes a turn moving into an ominous mid-tempo with probing organ. The music has a cinematic movie music feel to it. Finally the group end the album with a massive funk hit, "Gwyra Mi" with splashes of reggae in the beat, it's a medium-up organ swinger with an infectious beat, and featuring a dexterous drum solo. This album and the Radiolarians series as a whole have been quiet successful for MMW with the conception allowing for more organic and natural development of the music which seems quite inspirational for the group. This is a nice solid album of varied and enjoyable music.
Radiolarians III -

Send comments to: Tim