Medeski Martin &Wood are a New York jazz trio, not all that far removed from Australia’s The Necks, not only in their makeup of bass, drums and keys, but also in their improvisatory style and ability to endlessly accumulate genres within their eclectic repertoire. In fact it seems almost passe to label them as jazz these days. They’ve been playing together since 1991 and they seem to be able to mix composed material with more free and improvised approaches whilst still maintaining something of a groove, albeit occasionally atonally. The sticker on the cover of this disc quotes Allmusic, providing a list of all the styles of music that they touch upon and it’s probably quicker to say that the only things not listed are techno, death metal and Tuvan throat singing. It’s also fair to say that judging from this two disc collection it’s a pretty accurate statement.
This disc is a best of from the three Radiolarins discs they have been issuing over the last few years. The band elected to compose the songs, then tour them, playing only new music in an effort to develop the tunes before recording and putting out the album. It’s resulted in a uniquely flowing feeling album. There’s space for improvisation and a result the music doesn’t feel shackled down. Also in reference to their abundance of stylistic ingredients, they’ve also mashed a few together within many of the songs. So not only are you getting each song almost sounding like a different band but often within a song your radar starts playing up because although the music sounds like it knows what it’s doing, you can’t tell where it comes from. It’s a real testament to their ability to extend the three piece format, because although Medeski moves from organ to piano or synthesizer and the others have alternative instruments, at the end of the day it’s still just the three of them standing in a room looking at each other. Yet after 19 odd years this trio have developed into one strange amorphous organism that regularly travels in some really interesting and unexpected directions.
Bob Baker Fish