Saturday, January 26, 2013

Billy Martin's Wicked Knee - Heels Over Head (Amulet Records, 2012)

Drummer Billy Martin is well known for his long association with the popular jazz-funk band Medeski, Martin and Wood, but he has done quite a number of side projects as well. Wicked Knee consists of Martin on drums, Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Marcus Rojas on tuba and Steven Bernstein on trumpet, and the music they make investigates aspects of New Orleans funk combined with rhythm and blues and jazz. The take the music in some interesting directions, such as covering The White Stripes garage rock anthem "Button to Button." Rojas' bumping tuba beat is what drives the propulsive song, propelling the music forward and developing a lurching, rolling gait with bass and percussion. This works really well and is one of the high points of the album. "99%" goes in another direction with a female vocalist sitting in for a slightly histrionic spoken work piece with the fractured and angular recitation layered atop squalls of brass. Some textural tracks break up the good time music, but it is the uptempo numbers that I found the most interesting. "Ghumba Zumba" and "Sugarfoot Stomp" ripple with muscular energy that takes the gutbucket flavor of the blues and funk and mixes in some of the intellect of jazz. Heels Over Head -

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